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The Daintree Wet Tropics, Far North Queensland.

Daintree lies north of Cairns in the wet tropics area of Far North Queensland, in northeastern Australia. The region between the coast and the Great Dividing Range is covered in dense rainforest, and you can't have rainforest without rain.

We have been keeping rainfall records on our property next to the Daintree River for over 20 years now and have measured average annual rainfall of around 3,600 mm: that's about 145 inches for those who still think in imperial units.

Monthly rainfall data for 1980 - 1999.

Most of this rainfall comes between January and April during the wet season, but we also get regular rainfall during the so-called dry season. It is rare to get two weeks without some rain and we have not had a monthly total of zero in the 20 years we have been keeping records.

Graph of mean monthly rainfall.

So what's the highest rainfall we have had? The highest 24 hr total was around 860 mm on 6th March 1996 (around 860 because the 250 mm rain gauge overflowed between 7pm that night and 5am the next morning). The highest monthly total was also March 1996 with 1,800 mm. The wettest year has been 1999, when we recorded 5,318 mm (over 212 inches). The driest year saw a mere 2,666 mm in 1980. The land is used to such high rainfall and falls of well over 300 mm in a day are required to cause any flooding problems.

The climate is generally mild with no temperature extremes, and a low daily range. In summer the usual range is from a minimum around 26°C to a maximum of about 32°C. Some years we get strong NW winds for a few days during summer and this can raise temperatures to the high 30s which can make life uncomfortable unless you can park yourself under a fan.

Winter lows are usually just below 20°C and highs around 26°C. Very occasionally during the winter, when a southerly surges up from the interior, the minimum temperature will drop below 15°C, and one morning it even got down to 12°C.

Have a look at the comparison between the daily range in Daintree in July compared with that we measured out in the Simpson Desert west of Birdsville during one of our outback trips a week or so before. The Daintree temperature range was only 7°C compared to 23°C in the desert. That low range makes life much more comfortable.

Comparison of climates: Simpsom desert vs Daintree

The humidity is very high all year round and this makes life difficult for visitors used to a drier climate, but after a few years your body gets accustomed to this oppressive humidity, and in fact starts to complain when the air dries out.

Winds during the wet season are variable with occasional short bursts of SE followed by light winds from the NE to NW. For the rest of the year the SE trades dominate blowing 15-25 knots for a week or two before dropping off for a few days prior to another burst of SE.

The cyclone season runs from December to April and during this time the Daintree region is at risk of cyclone strike. However, most cyclones are very compact systems and only affect a strip of coast about 50 km across when they make landfall. We have lived here for 20 years and only had one direct hit and several near misses, with no property damage. And they do make life interesting.

- Tony Ayling

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