The wet season’s “little summer”

If you visit Central America or south and east Mexico during the heart of the wet season, you may find the heavens failing to open up as expected. The afternoon rains typically slacken across much of the region for two or three weeks during July or August, producing the canicula or veranillo (literally, the little summer, since the wet season itself is referred to as winter). The air is still humid and the sky may be filled with puffy clouds, but a week or more might pass between daytime storms. However, in some regions the canicula has little effect on the nighttime rains that are also part of the wet season. At many sites, the total rain for July or August is only two-thirds the amount registered in May or June, thanks to the canicula. Ironically, the Caribbean coast from eastern Nicaragua to Panama can get some of its heaviest downpours even as the canicula is playing out just to the west. The break in the rains along the Caribbean doesn't usually hit until August or September, and the following upsurge may extend into the New Year. Some of the heaviest rains of the year may follow the canicula: spells of dampness called temporals that can last a week or longer.