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New Wettest Place on Earth Discovered?

By: Christopher C. Burt, 9:56 PM GMT on March 18, 2013

New Wettest Place on Earth Discovered?

In my blog of March 6th ‘Time to Update World’s Driest and Wettest Locations’ I wrote about what may be the new contender for the world’s driest inhabited place. In this blog I present a new contender for what may be the world’s wettest given new information that has come to light just recently.

Puerto Lopez, Colombia: Wettest inhabited place in the world?

This map of Colombia shows the location of Puerto Lopez de Micay in the Cauca Department. Map from Wikipedia.

Data recently provided by IDEAM (Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales), the Colombian national meteorological service (in English the ‘Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies’) indicates that one of their official sites named Puerto Lopez de Micay in the Cauca Department, Pacifica Region has an average annual rainfall of 12,892.4 mm (507.57”) for the period of April 1960-February 2012 (the last month for which I have data, although the site is still in operation). There are, however, significant gaps in the record since 1960, especially during the 1968-1979 period. In spite of this there do exist complete records for 31 years in all (through 2011) and the record is only missing four months since 1991. Taking the average for those 31 complete years of data the annual average actually comes out a bit higher at 13,466.3 mm (530.17”). The wettest year was 1984 with an astonishing 23,818 mm (937.72”) and the driest with 6,195 mm (243.90”) in 1980 (both years with complete data sets). Almost as incredible are the number of days of measurable precipitation that totaled 353 days in 1984 and 355 days in 1985 (when 19,444 mm/765.51”) were recorded. Virtually two years of daily rainfall. The precipitation falls more or less evenly over the course of the year ranging from 899 mm (35.39”) in February to 1197 mm (47.13”) in May. The wettest single month on record was August 1984 when 3015 mm (118.70”) was measured. This is not a particularly impressive figure given the site’s annual average accumulation and thus illustrates how persistent and even the rainfall is month to month.

A monthly and annual summary of the precipitation data for Puerto Lopez, Colombia (in millimeters) was 12,892.4 mm (507.57") during the entire POR of 1960-2011. The monthly data for the last few years (since 2008) can also be seen above the summary of the averages listed. Courtesy of IDEAM.

A close up Google Earth view of Lopez zooms in on the coordinates provided in the data sheets for the location of the gauge. However, the coordinates do not include seconds so this may be a rough estimate of where the actual gauge is located. Google Earth.

Puerto Lopez is a small town (the population is stated as 25,000 in Wikipedia, although this probably encompasses a regional area as well) located on the San Juan de Micay River in southwestern Colombia. The elevation of the rain gauge is given as 80 meters (265 feet) above mean sea level and its coordinates are 2° 50’ N, 77° 14’ W. Deep moisture from the Pacific condenses against a high mountain chain about 65 kilometers (40 miles) east of Lopez, the highest peak being Mt. Munchique rising to 3012 m (11,858 feet).

Ironically, for years the site of Lloro, Colombia in the Choco Department of northwestern Colombia has often been referenced by numerous publications, including WMO official reports, as perhaps being the wettest location on earth. This was based upon a study published in 1992 by a Mr. Jesus Eslava from the University of Bogota. He researched a site known as the Lloro Granja Agricola (Lloro Agricultural Farm) where an average of 12,717 mm (500.67”) was measured between 1952-1989. This site, however, was not an official IDEAM location, unlike Puerto Lopez. The actual town of Lloro has an average of only 7,559 mm (297.60”) for the 1971-2000 POR. So the Colombian towns Quibdo and Tutunendo are actually considerably wetter than Lloro (with annual average precipitations of 10,749 mm/423.19” and 11,394 mm/448.58” respectively).

A map of the annual average precipitation for Colombia. The purple spot in the southwestern quadrant of the nation is where Puerto Lopez is located. Map from IDEAM web site.

Mawsynram and Cherrapunji, India

Currently, the official wettest site in the world (for which there is data) is Mawsynram, Meghalaya State, India with an annual average precipitation of 11,872 mm (467.40”) according to the WMO (World Meteorological Organization) Global Weather and Climate Extremes committee. This figure was based on an unknown 38-year POR. More recent POR’s have shown that the figure may be a bit higher today: from 1998 to 2010 the average was 12,700.5 mm (500.02”). Nearby Cherrapunji (which also considers itself the wettest place on the planet) averaged 11,542 mm (454.41”) for this same 1998-2010 POR.

A map showing the locations of Mawsynram and Cherrapunji in the Khasi Hills of northeastern India. The two towns are about 15-25 kilometers (10-15 miles) from one another.

I have not been able to ascertain what the precipitation figures are for either site during the latest 30-year official POR of 1981-2010 might be. For more details on the wettest locations in the world (exclusive, of course, of this latest finding) please see the blog on world precipitation extremes I published last May.

KUDOS: Henry Oswaldo Benevides and Carlos Rocha of the Colombian national meteorological service IDEAM. Thanks to Maximiliano Herrera for digging up great data and bringing it to my attention.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Precipitation Records

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.