Costa Rica Cyclones and Hurricanes
Weather Forecasts You Shouldn’t Pay Attention To
There are thousands of websites out there with links and embedded forecasts from weather servers and they’re all wrong.
Well sort of wrong anyway. If what you’re trying to find out is “what will the weather be like next week when I visit,” then a forecast that’s unvarying – saying “chance of rain” for 15 days in a row – is pretty useless and will definitely give the wrong impression.
It’s the tropics, there’s always a “chance of rain.”
Weather.com and other sites serve weather maps based on current conditions and readings from a dozen or so automated weather sensing stations around the country. Unfortunately based on that limited data except in the driest months in the driest regions the forecast is nearly always some rain.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten phone calls from panicked travelers asking if they should cancel their trip because “there’s an 80% chance of rain every day.” Then I have to explain that “Costa Rica is a country of micro-climates but those forecasts are for huge areas and for 24 hour periods,” and continue to explain that “it rains somewhere in Costa Rica every day (or night).”
November 2016 – Tropical Storm (Hurricane) Otto
Tropical storm Otto is moving towards Costa Rica from the Caribbean (see current map). It is predicted to briefly reach Hurricane strength (Category 1 – the weakest Hurricane) around the time it makes landfall later today.
What You Should Pay Attention To
If you want a better idea of what sort of rainfall and sunshine patterns you can expect you’re better off making your own forecast. I’ve always thought this was true and a while back it was confirmed by a couple of friends who own rafting companies. Their livelihoods depend on making a call every day that the rivers won’t be dangerously high from excessive rain. They both arrived independently at the same technique that I use.
How You Can Make an Accurate Forecast
Okay so every weather forecast is a bit iffy but you can certainly do a better job than the little prediction pop-ups on the weather websites – at least for Costa Rica where they work with very limited information.
First you need a general knowledge of Costa Rica’s seasons and weather patterns. That’s available on the handy drop down menu below (just select the month you are traveling for a summary).
Second you need some information on what is brewing off the Pacific and Caribbean coasts (or has already brewed and is landing). That’s available by clicking on either the tropical storm map that we’ve set criteria for (click image above) or more in depth analysis at NOAA (click image below).
Third you combine the two to figure out that since you’re traveling in February and the Guanacaste beach resorts are bone dry then and since the map isn’t showing any huge rainy low pressure systems tracking towards Costa Rica you’re good to go! No need to call Ray and Sue!
You don’t really care that there’s an 80% chance of it raining somewhere in the country (probably on the southern Caribbean or high in the Talamanca mountains).
Of course if there is a huge hurricane bearing down in the Gulf of Mexico or a giant tropical depression trying to collect itself off the Pacific coast you may want to get out your umbrella.
Many “informational” websites have what looks like very detailed information for very specific parts of Costa Rica but they’re just putting different labels on the same info to try to make it look specific. There are really only two fully functional METAR feed weather sensing stations in Costa Rica (at SJO and LIR airports) with a dozen other that send very limited data. There’s no big network of ground based Doppler Radar which is what a lot of the specifics in U.S., European and Canadian weather forecast come from.
So check out the monthly climate pattern, check out the hurricane and tropical storm map, and then relax!