Rainforest Weather & Climate

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Both equatorial and midlatitude regions contain rainforests, and rainforest weather and climate vary by geography. The two primary types of rainforests are tropical and temperate. A third type, the tropical monsoon forest, resembles the tropical rainforest except for the timing of precipitation. In tropical and temperate rainforests, weather patterns follow two primary seasons, wet and dry.

Wet and Dry Seasons

Temperate rainforests have a long wet season and a short dry season. Rain still falls during the "dry" season, however, but not at the same rate as during the wet season. Much of the dry season precipitation in temperate rainforests comes in the form of fog. The wet and dry seasons in tropical rainforests are more equal. For example, each season is about six months long in the Amazon basin, and the wet season lasts from December to May.

Tropical Rainforest Climate

Tropical rainforests are located north and south of the equator between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. As such, they have a warm and humid climate with lots of rainfall. Annual precipitation amounts vary greatly from 200 to 1,020 centimeters (80 to 400 inches). In the Amazon rainforest, precipitation can be more than 365 centimeters (12 feet) in a year. Mean temperatures are above 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit). The weather will vary during the dry season as rainfall decreases.

Temperate Rainforest Climate

Temperate rainforests are located in regions such as the northwest portion of the United States, called the Pacific Northwest. Over two-thirds of all temperate rainforests are found in the Pacific Northwest. Mountain ranges protect temperate rainforests from weather extremes, and they typically have moderate weather even though they're located far from the equator. On average, temperate rainforests will receive less rainfall and have cooler temperatures than their tropical counterparts. Precipitation averages approximately 250 centimeters (100 inches) annually. But it will vary from 150 to 500 centimeters (60 to 200 inches) in any given year.

Tropical Monsoon Climate

Tropical monsoon forests have a climate similar to tropical rainforests, except for rainfall patterns. Monsoon climates are located along coastal areas, which have different air circulation patterns than those seen in a typical tropical rainforest. Temperatures are comparable between the two, and warm air dominates year-round. The amount of average annual precipitation is also similar between tropical monsoon forests and tropical rainforests. Monsoon forests, however, receive most of their precipitation during the peak of summer, or the monsoon season, due to changes in atmospheric circulation.


About the Author

John Peterson published his first article in 1992. Having written extensively on North American archaeology and material culture, he has contributed to various archaeological journals and publications. Peterson has a Bachelor of Arts from Eastern New Mexico University and a Master of Arts from the University of Nebraska, both in anthropology, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in history from Columbia College.