QCOSTARICA – The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins next Thursday, June 1. The Pacific one started on May 15.

However, the one that has most focused the attention of specialists from the national weather service, the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional (IMN), is the Atlantic.

For this 2023 season, between 10 and 16 cyclones are expected, according to Luis Fernando Alvarado, the coordinator of the IMN Climatology Unit.
This year, which will be affected by El Niño, is expected to have a definite number of cyclones based on the forecasts:

7 to 9: tropical storms
1 to 3: Category 1 or 2 hurricanes
2 to 4: Category 3, 4, or 5 hurricanes

It’s expected that the 2023 season will be around 10% lower than usual. Alvarado added that El Niño will make cyclonic activity in the Atlantic decrease by 30%.


Is there a risk of impact in Costa Rica?

Alvarado said there’s hardly any chance of that happening. This is mainly due to El Niño, which the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center has confirmed has a 90% chance of appearing in peaceful waters.

Latest NOAA hurricane forecasts

El Niño is often linked to hot and dry conditions, which are expected to be more intense in the Americas from northern Brazil to Central America this year.

Generally, Pacific cyclones usually don’t affect Costa Rica, however, there have been exceptions like Alma in 2008.

El Niño might make the cyclone season more active but most of them tend to form far away from the coasts, making the risk for Costa Rica lower.

The Atlantic cyclones also have a lower risk of affecting the country, since 90% of the time there’s been no direct or indirect influence.

The El Niño announcement is good news for Central American coastal populations since not only is the number of cyclones smaller than usual but there are also no cyclones in the Caribbean. However, there is a downside since fewer cyclones mean less rainfall in the hydrological basins, which could have a negative effect on hydroelectric generation and the agricultural sector.

Other effects of El Niño in Costa Rica

Alvarado explained that during the presence of the phenomenon, Costa Rica tends to experience an increase in temperatures and a decrease in rainfall on the Pacific slope – particularly in Guanacaste – and in the Central Valley.

This will cause that the rainy season starts later and ends earlier than normal.

“If El Niño manages to reach very high intensities (like those of 2015) the water deficit is even greater and it becomes a meteorological drought,” said Alvarado.

In summary, El Niño could bring higher temperatures and less rainfall to Costa Rica, with Guanacaste being the most affected.

On the flip side, some parts of the North Zone could get too much rain.

The strength of the phenomenon will determine the temperature increase, with a max of 1 C in our oceanic climate. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center predicts a moderate to strong El Niño.


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