Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the May 29, 2011 Newsletter issued from Mayan Beach Garden Inn 20 kms north of Mahahual, Quintana Roo, México

As a kid on the Kentucky farm I thought of being someplace in the tropics with a rainy season about to break as about the most exotic and desired experience I could imagine. Kipling had taught me how rainy seasons arrive in Indian villages. There'd be long- lasting, debilitating heat and humidity, a sky's blinding, silvery glare, a community's stunned quietness and an awful tension preceding the first thunder clap... Then, the downpour, the first cool air in months, streets and fields awash, kids, dogs and wide-eyed cattle ecstatic, old men in streets, their trouser legs rolled up, sipping hot tea in cold rain and laughing through toothless gums.

For years that mental image of a breaking Indian monsoon was so deeply rooted in my mind that I had to experience several rainy seasons here before it occurred to me that our rainy seasons aren't like what Kipling described.

Our rainy seasons begin and end more gradually, beginning about now and reaching a peak of frequency and severity in September or thereabouts, and then piddling out by late November or so. Hurricane and almost-hurricane storm systems also peak during the rainy season, in their own way making rainy seasons rainier.

Yucatán's rainy-season afternoon storms -- at least those in the interior -- are caused by the land growing frightfully hot from the sun shining almost directly down from above. All that solar energy dumped into a humid atmosphere creates enormous convection currents of unstable air that start curling around like big cats with increasingly upset tempers. These currents gather strength until they gurgle up through the landscape's steam and sweat like bubbles in cooking gravy. With such heat, humidity and unruly rushing air at play, rainstorms just happen.

But, that's what happens in the Peninsula's interior. Here on the Yucatán coast perpetually blessed with much cooler ocean air, something else is happening. I've already seen several storms develop inland and at sea, while we remained dry here. I'll have to watch things here a while longer before I can figure out how coastal Yucatán's weather works.