|Climate in Costa Rica
The climate of Costa Rica. Costa Rica is
unequivocally a tropical country, situated
between 8° and 11° North latitude, fairly
close to the equator. Although in the mountains
above 2000 meters you get much cooler temperatures,
the average annual temperature for most of
the country lies between 21.7°C (71°F) and
27°C (81°F). The coolest months are from
November through January, and the warmest
from March through May. San José, the capital,
where over a third of the population lives,
stands at approximately 1170 meters altitude
and has a mean annual temperature of 20.6°C
The nation's climate is classically divided
into two major seasons: rainy and dry. The
dry season runs from January through May
and the rainy season from May to November
and December. Locally, the seasons were named
by the early Spanish colonizers, who compared
them to their own Mediterranean climate,
calling the dry months "verano"
or summer, and the rainy, grey and gloomy
months "invierno" or winter. It
is interesting to note that some of the coldest
temperatures are registered during the early
dry season or "summer". Climate
is, of course, a complex phenomenon, and
there are many aspects of the weather in
Costa Rica that are worth examining in more
detail, such as the influences of wind, rain,
Weather in the tropics is essentially a phenomenon
of solar radiation and air circulation. Intense
heat at the equator puts air in motion, and
a worldwide pattern of winds is established.
The most famous of these, for Costa Rica,
are the north-easterly trade winds, known
locally as "alisios". These winds
blow with considerable force from December
to March and April. These winds, for example,
are responsible for carrying moisture in
the form of mists to the slopes of the Tilarán
mountain range. These mists are what sustain
the magnificent cloud forest ecosystem.
Rainfall patterns, although seasonal, vary
greatly in intensity across geographical
areas. Some locations receive over 6 mts
(18 ft) of precipitation per year, while
others receive under 1.5 mts (4 ft). Most
of the total rainfall for any given site
(about 70%) occurs on less than 15 days of
a whole year, and will often be experienced
as days of torrential downpour. Costa Rica
may hold the world record for the amount
of rainy days at one site. Hacienda Cedral
registered 359 days of rain in 1968.
The topography of the country also has a
great influence on the weather patterns of
a given locality. As a result the timing
of the dry and rainy seasons varies a bit
on each slope of the mountain ranges that
run from the north-west to the south-east
and divide the nation into a Caribbean slope
and a Pacific slope.
On the Caribbean slope the rainy season begins
from mid to late April and continues through
December and sometimes January. The wettest
months are July and November, with a dry
spell that occurs around August or September.
Major storms, called "temporales del
Atlantico" occasionally buffet this
slope between September and February, when
it will rain continuously for several days;
but an average rainy season day will begin
clear with a few hours of sunshine that will
give way to clouds and rain by the afternoon.
In contrast, the driest months of February
and March, might be almost entirely without
On the Pacific slope the rainy season begins
in May and runs its course until November.
Here again, days often begin sunny and pleasant,
with rains coming later in the day. This
is a period in which the trade winds coming
from the north-east are much reduced in intensity,
and as a result storms often come in from
the Pacific Ocean in September and October.
In the northern half of the country the Pacific
slope experiences an intense dry season,
in which no rain may fall for several months.
The forests of the North-West are to a large
extent deciduous, letting their leaves fall
in order to conserve water. Winds can be
very strong, occasionally reaching speeds
of 90 km/hr in the lowlands, although they
average more around 20 km/hr. The whole Central
Valley, in which the capital is situated,
experiences a mild, pleasant dry season that
is matched by moderate temperatures for most
of the year, and a lower than average amount
of rainfall. Early settlers prized the area
for both its mild climate and fertile soils.
The southern half of the Pacific slope is
much wetter than its northern counterpart,
with a shorter dry season and longer and
heavier afternoon rains in the wet season.
In a discussion of the climate in Costa Rica
one cannot omit El Niño, "The Child".
It is a poorly understood weather phenomenon
that occurs every two to seven years. It
is originally detectable as an unusual warming
of a section of the Pacific Ocean. In 1997
El Niño struck Costa Rica once again, disrupting
normal weather patterns considerably. Some
scientists have postulated that this phenomenon
might have been partially responsible for
the disappearance of several species of frogs
in the late 80's, which are extremely dependent
on water. Each time it occurs analysts across
the world hold their breaths waiting to see
the effects it has on different regions,
because they can often be disastrous.
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