So where is the wettest place in the world then?

Here's a thing. Weather records have been kept for years and years at all sorts of places so you'd have thought it would be really easy to discover where the wettest place in the world is. Guess again - meteorologists can't for the life of them seem to agree on where the wettest place in the world is! Of course the thing to remember is that we're looking at average rainfall, i.e. consistent wetness, rather than one year with a huge rainfall total.

Of course other ways of judging the wettest place in the world would be to look at the number of days or hours with precipitation. Sadly I've not unearthed much in this department - De Bilt in the central Netherlands gets on average about 604 hours precipitation per year (there's 8,760 hours in a year) and in 2001 had 800 hours precipitation. Here precipitation falls on around 200-250 days per year.

For the time being, however, it's where the greatest average rainfall in the world is that we're interested in:

The Contenders
1. Mount Wai-Ďale-Ďale, Kauai, one of the Hawaiian islands - the weather station here is 1569 metres high and records on average 13,000mm to 11,684mm rain per year, depending on which source you believe. Either way this is really wet!!!!! Rain falls on between 335 and 360 days per year, again depending on which source you believe. Nearby sea level sites, meanwhile, record around 500mm rain per year.

As you can see, sources vary considerably as to how much rain falls here. Bodin (1978) quotes 11,684mm per year figure as being the 1912-45 average, an average that quite possibly will have changed since then, whilst The National Climatic Data Center quotes this figure as a 30 year average there, but fails to mention which 30 period was covered. The Weather Network and The Guiness Book of Weather Records (Holford 1977) quotes 11,455mm rain per year, whilst Ahrens (2000) quotes 11,680mm as the average annual rainfall at Mount Wai-'ale-'ale and Kroll (1995) claims 13,000mm falls there.

Similarly, The Weather Network and the Guiness Book of Weather Records quote 335 days with rain here whilst Simons (1996) suggests that rain falls on an incredible 360 days per year here. Nice.

2. Mount Tutenendo, Columbia  - records 11,770mm to 12,045mm rain per year, again depending on which source you choose to believe (Simons 1996, Focus Magazine 1997), and there's just 275mm difference between sources.

3. Lloro, Columbia - estimated 13,299mm rain per year (Raikhel 2000). According to The National Climatic Data Center this is an estimated amount and in fact Quibdo in Columbia, which is at a lower altitude than Lloro, is with an average annual rainfall of 8,991.6mm rain South America's wettest place.

4. Cherrapunji,north-eastern India - was thought for many years to be the wettest place in the world. Here 10,820mm rain (Holford 1977) falls on average in a year, well short of the amounts that fall at the other contenders. Unlike Hawaii and Columbia where the rain falls throughout the whole year, Cherrapunji gets most of its rain during the 'south-west monsoon', or wet season, between June and August. Cherrapunji does hold the record for the wettest month on record, recording 9,296mm in July 1861. Actually, between 1860 and 1862 Cherrapunji was incredibly wet; between August 1st 1860 and July 31st 1861 (which overlaps parts of 2 wet seasons) 26,467mm rain fell. In the calender year 1861 22,987mm rain fell, of which 22,454 fell between April and September.

5. Mawsynram, India - is quoted by the The National Climatic Data Center as having an annual average rainfall of 11,871mm and 11,877mm by BBC Weather, more than any other contender except Lloro in Columbia. Mawsynram is just a few kilometres away from Cherrapunji.

The Decision
The more sources I looked at the more the range of quoted rainfall amounts widenend, so let's just call it a draw for now and say that Mount Wai-'ale-'ale, a couple of spots in the Columbian Highlands and one or two parts of India are the wettest places in the world. As The National Climatic Data Center in the USA rightly point out, it really depends on measurement practice and procedures and the period being measured!

Sources
AHRENS, C.D. (2000): Meteorology Today, Brooks/Cole, p.528.
BBC Weather News
BODIN, S. (1978): Weather and Climate, Blandford, p.272.
HOLFORD, I. (1977): The Guiness Book of Weather Records, Book Club Associates, p.240.
KROLL, E. (1995): De Wereld van het Weer, Teleac, p.188.
RAIKHEL, E. (2000): Extreme Weather. Scientific American Presents, 11, 40-41.
SIMONS, P. (1996): Wierd Weather, Little Brown and Company, p.303.

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Dan Suri, 2 April 2003