A Question of Weather

I received the following question and I thought it deserved a blog post of its own:

Hi and thnx for your blogging! Friends were talking about Panama as a retirement option. We live half the year in Arizona but avoid the hot summer. We too wondered if Panama was a fit, for us and the dogs, year round. Being from the Pacific coast, in Canada, we can seem too get the real facts on the weather. Yes it should be warm but, being in a rainy climate in Canada, what is your take on how much rain is there? I read other stories, I believe were yours, and it seemed the volume of rain may deter a lot of outside activities??  There is also mixed information when comparing the Caribbean to the Pacific sides, of Panama, regarding rain and cloudy skies. ?? 

Earl

Dear Earl:

Welcome to the big wide world of research on Panama! Although my in-laws also spent half of the year in Arizona to avoid the cold Alberta winters we immediately struck it from our list.  Why? Because we could only stay there for six months of the year and we were looking for a more permanent escape.  In Arizona there are also miles and miles of sand but not too many bodies of water to swim in, in other words we were looking for a place with a beach.

As with Canada, Panama has many places and climates to choose from.  Yes, it rains here but in varying degrees in each area of the country.  There are two seasons, Wet Season and Dry Season.  Wet Season is just beginning again in some parts of the country and will continue until about mid-December when the trade winds shift and it becomes Dry Season once again.

We live on the Azuero Peninsula part of the “Dry Arch” of Panama.  This is one of the driest areas of the country; for comparison think of Saskatchewan in the summer.  Our Wet Season is shorter and of course that makes our Dry Season longer.  Our temperature stays around 30° C year round but wind and humidity vary depending on the season.  During Wet Season the humidity climbs significantly and everything becomes lush and tropical and well, wet.  During Dry Season everything is mostly yellow, brown and dusty and dirty like a prairie summer.  On the other hand we do get some nice breezes over the ocean that cools the air down somewhat.  When it rains in our area the temperature doesn’t change, unlike the rains in Canada it stays warm enough that one can walk outside with an umbrella (a rain coat would be too warm), shorts and flip-flops.

The Caribbean Coast has more rain year-round and is more of a ‘tropical’ climate than a ‘neotropical’ such as ours.  The population is much sparser there also with mostly indigenous people and pockets of tourism.  This area is hot and humid and gets pretty steamy.

Some of the places that are cooler and similar to the West Coast of Canada with more rain year round are the cooler mountainous regions like El Valle, Boquete, Volcan and Cerro Azul.  Someone once told me that the temperature in Bouquete during Dry Season reminded them of Summer in Canada.  I do know that most homes in the higher elevations have fireplaces in them and that long sleeves and long pants are sometimes required when the temperatures dip to a balmy 18° or lower.

When one is researching for a place to live for part or the entire year one of the criteria you have to look at is the weather.  But there are other things to consider also such as access to services such as shopping, health care and entertainment.  It’s always best to visit at least once during each season and investigate several areas of the country to see what the climate is like and what services are available.  In all honestly a little rain was one of the least of our concerns when looking for a place to live.

The skies the last few days are trying to fool us.  We wake in the morning to the gray that quickly turns to blue as the sun rises.  During Wet Season rain fills the rivers once again.  Rain brings the green lushness of the tropics and helps the crops grow.  Rainy season means the return of the whales along our coast.  Bring on the rain…in the campo.

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About indacampo

You'll find me at https://indacampo.wordpress.com/ blogging about Panama...and other things.
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4 Responses to A Question of Weather

  1. oldsalt1942 says:

    I live in a small pueblo in Chiriqui Province, west of David. Chiriqui is where the gringo mecca of Boquete is located high up in the mountains above David. There are more micro-climates here in Chiriqui than one could count. When I first came here four years ago (April 29th is my four-year anniversary) I had the incredible good fortune to house sit in Potrerillos Arriba which is roughly as high above the Pacific Ocean as Boquete. Having spent the previous 19 years in southeast Florida I often found it downright COLD up there in Potrerillos. I often had to wear a sweatshirt in order to be moderately comfortable.

    Here in Boqueron it IS hotter than Boquete or Potrerillos, but, for some reason it’s not as hot as David. (That’s pronounced Dah VEED for your questioner). Yes, during the dry season it get’s VERY hot here in Boqueron during the middle of the afternoon. Easily in the mid 90s, feels like 100+ (and we’re dealing with REAL DEGREES here not that sissy base-10 metric crap invented by those cheese-eating surrender monkeys, the French, who thought it was a cool thing to do since they had 10 fingers and couldn’t be bothered dealing with anything requiring actual thought.) But in the evenings, after the sun sets, it cools off quite rapidly as the cool air from the mountains surrounding us sinks down onto the flat. By morning the temperature is generally in the low 70s and upper 60s and I’ve pulled a light woolen blanket over myself.

    In regards to the ‘Rainy Season’, which is thankfully starting to develop recently, it isn’t what a lot of people might expect. I can count on a single hand (base five) the number of times in four years that it has rained all day long here. Generally the mornings are glorious. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the sky is blue and there’s hardly a cloud in it. People get up early and get their running around done early because by noon it starts to cloud up heavily and sometime in the afternoon you can expect a deluge of Noah-frightening proportions for a couple of hours. Generally not more than that. The falling rain results in what is known as ‘convective cooling’ and the temps drop from the mid 80s to the mid 70s and stay like that until sundown. For me, it’s quite comfortable. Right now, at 3 in the afternoon it’s really grey outside and I can hear thunder in all points of the compass.

    For such a small, narrow country, Panama has a very diverse climatological makeup. There’s probably one that would suit your reader.

    • indacampo says:

      Thank you for the wonderful information. I have to add that I’ve been to David and it does get stinking hot there. There isn’t as much wind there likely because of the distance from the ocean and the ‘hills’ that are close. Or should I say volcanoes? Sorry, I grew up a stones throw away from the Rockies so I have difficulty calling them ‘mountains’. 🙂

  2. There is no substitute for visiting in person. IMO, there’s a lot to consider along with the weather.

    David reminds me of Florida in the summer but it’s not as suffocatingly hot and humid. Here we rarely use the AC but in Florida we had to use it most of the year. But, it all depends on what you like. Even the locals seem surprised we like this warm David climate. But, for us, the higher elevations are too cold.

    BTW, we had thunder too, but where is the rain? I’m looking forward to the rains coming back.

    • indacampo says:

      The winds are shifting again so hopefully within the next month or so. It seems to be all around us but never here.

      I have to agree that I thought David was just as dry and here but like I said no wind. I missed the breeze when we visited. 🙂

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