Costa Rica Weather

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, so get ready for some MAJOR DANGER. Even though I have a rocket scientist who reads this blog, I am going to attempt to explain the weather in Costa Rica from my humble layman’s point of view and risk the derision of those who know what they are talking about.

My entire education in this area was a survey course in physical geography taken way back in 1969. I’m sure there have been new developments since then but at my level of understanding it’s irrelevant. So, onward…

One of the real attractions of Costa Rica and the central valley in particular is the weather. Throughout the country you’ll find that temperatures vary relatively little from January to July. This is true whether you’re in the central valley, in the mountains or along the coast. For starters let’s compare San Jose to a place we have all heard of (and I lived in for a few months). I’m talking about the 2nd City, the Windy City, Chi Town… Chicago, Illinois!

I suppose that the most obvious thing about the above chart is just how much COLDER it gets in Chicago. Well, YEAH! But also notice how in July the average high temperature in Chicago exceeds that in San Jose, CR. How can that be? Well, without laying any math on you (as if I could!) it’s due to two things. Firstly, Chicago actually receives more sun (ignoring cloud cover) in July than San Jose does. Although the sun is not as intense at Chicago’s latitude, days last a lot longer there than in Costa Rica. There is only about a half hour difference between the longest day and the shortest day. The longest day in San Jose is less than 12 and a half hours, while the longest day in Chicago is 15 plus hours. The shortest day is about 9 and a quarter hours. So by doing a little math (sorry) you can see that the days vary by about 6 hours in Chicago but less than a half hour in Costa Rica.

So it’s no surprise that the temperature range in Costa Rica is less variable than locations in North America. Even Miami is more variable than San Jose.

In fairness to Miami, I need to point out that the chart compares San Jose to Miami, and San Jose has something to keep it cool that Miami doesn’t, and I don’t mean air conditioning. What is that? I hear you ask. The answer is: Altitude (no, not ATTITUDE, ALtitude) One of the little tidbits I picked up in my physical geography class was that all other things being equal, every thousand feet in altitude you climb you lose 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Since San Jose is more than 3000 ft. in elevation, San Jose is about 10 degrees cooler than the coasts (yes, there are more than one!).

I suppose I should mention rain before I wrap this up. Costa Rica is more or less divided in the middle by a range or mountains. The part of the country that is east of the divide gets more rain than the western part, which doesn’t get much rain from around the first of December to the first of May. I won’t bother to try to explain why other than to say it has something to do with air currents (or something).

So, bottom line, if you are too hot in Costa Rica, head uphill. Eventually you’ll need a ski jacket (no kidding, I’ve seen people wearing ski jackets in the mountains). If you’re too chilly, you can head downhill. At the moment, I wouldn’t change the temperature even if I could. Pura vida!

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Comments

  1. askelena says:

    LOL,

    I am near the beach and higher than the tallest point in Florida!!!! I don't have any glass in my windows, and I'll use a fan when it is hot (90). I lived 30 years in Arizona and I'd rather NOT be a slave to air conditioning. Come on down for a visit. FincaAmanecer.com We are doing a bamboo workshop next Friday. so if you want to learn to live sustainably: http://icccr.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/bamboo-q-a-

  2. OK, altitude, sure, but you forgot latitude. (Can't wait for your discussion on Hadley cells)….and remember not to confuse climate with weather.

    • pharg,

      I touched on latitude but should have been more explicit. It is Costa Rica's latitude that keeps the amount of incoming sunlight very equable year round, as opposed to higher latitudes, which vary more the farther from the Equator they are.pharg,