Belize has a tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons, although there is considerable variation in weather patterns depending on the region. Temperatures vary with altitude, proximity to the coast and the moderating effects of the northeastern Caribbean trade winds. Average temperatures in coastal areas range from 24°C (75.2°F) in January to 27°C (80.6°F) in July. Temperatures are slightly higher inland, except in the southern highlands, such as Mountain Pine Ridge, where it is much cooler throughout the year. Overall, the seasons are characterised more by differences in humidity and precipitation than by differences in temperature.
Average rainfall varies considerably, ranging from 1,350 mm in the north and west to more than 4,500 mm in the far south. Seasonal variation in rainfall is greatest in the northern and central regions of the country, where less than 100 mm of rain per month falls between January and April or May. The dry season is shorter in the south, usually lasting only from February to April. A shorter, less rainy period, known locally as the “little drought”, usually occurs in late July or August, after the rainy season has begun.
Hurricanes have played an important – and devastating – role in Belize’s history. In 1931, an unnamed hurricane destroyed more than two-thirds of the buildings in Belize City and killed more than 1,000 people. In 1955, Hurricane Janet devastated the northern city of Corozal. Just six years later, Hurricane Hattie hit the central coastal region of the country with winds of over 300 km/h and storm surges of 4 metres. The devastation of Belize City for the second time in thirty years led to the capital being moved some 50 miles inland to the planned city of Belmopan.
In 1978, Hurricane Greta caused over 25 million dollars worth of damage to the south coast. On 9 October 2001, Hurricane Iris made landfall in Monkey River Town as a Category 4 storm with 145 mph (233 km/h) winds. The storm destroyed most of the village’s houses and wiped out the banana crop. In 2007, Hurricane Dean, a Category 5, made landfall just 40 km north of the Belize-Mexico border. Dean caused extensive damage in northern Belize.
Hurricane Richard, a Category 2 hurricane, was the last hurricane to make direct landfall in Belize. It made landfall about 32 km south-southeast of Belize City at about 00:45 UTC on 25 October 2010. The storm moved inland towards Belmopan and caused an estimated Z$33.8 million (US$17.4 million in 2010) in damage, mainly to crops and homes.