Earthquakes, floods and volcanoes – Millions of tourist travel to Costa Rica every year, and many end up moving here to enjoy Costa Rica’s rich and beautiful eco environment and lower cost of living. But as beautiful as the Costa Rica environment is, it is also very dynamic environment.
Weather wise, Costa Rica is located in the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), an area encircling the earth near the equator where winds originating in the northern and southern hemispheres merge together.
As you can see on the image that Costa Rica is directly in this zone, and although the weather here can be amazing, it can deadly, with tropical storms being pulled up from South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Fortunately Costa Rica is situated in such a way that almost all of the hurricanes being spawned of the coast of Africa and the Caribbean only brush Costa Rica and are pulled North towards Nicaragua, Mexico Cuba Haiti, and the Gulf regions.
Costa Rica is also on a very active region of the Ring of Fire where three (3) tectonic plates converge: Nazca Plate, Cocos Plate and the Caribbean Plate all converge just off Costa Rica Pacific coast.
The Ring of Fire is an area where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. In a 40,000 km (25,000 mi) horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements. The Ring of Fire has 452 volcanoes and is home to over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. It is sometimes called the circum-Pacific belt or the circum-Pacific seismic belt.
The Ring of Fire is a direct result of plate tectonics and the movement and collisions of lithospheric plates. (Wikipedia)
So Costa Rica being located at a convergence point of three plates makes for an active country, seismically speaking. If any one of these 3 plates shift Costa Rica feels movement.
Earthquakes in Costa Rica are generally felt in one of two (2) ways, either a bouncing motion up and down, or a floating or sideways shaking motion. The 7.6 earthquake yesterday, September 5 2012, was a “floater”, rocking back and forth.
Volcanoes, Costa Rica has 14, with 4 of them active in the past 2 years. Arenal Volcano is Costa Rica’s most active which continuously pours out molten rock, and with its iconic, classic volcano shape, the Arenal region has become one of Costa Rica most famous tourist site. The last significant eruption of Arenal was 2010; the most historic in recent history was 1968 where surrounding towns and villages had to be evacuated.
The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) sites Dilley (2005), ranked Costa Rica # 8 in the world of Countries at Risk from Multiple Hazards.
Floods remain the main source of natural hazard in Costa Rica. Torrential rains from tropical storms are increasing in frequency. “Triggered by intense rainfall, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions, landslides and torrential debris flows are among the most costly in terms of human lives. During the heavy rains in October 2007, a total of 14 people died in a landslide in the city of Atenas. After the January 2009 earthquake, at least 10 people died in another landslide in Cinchona, a rural community 50 miles west of the capital city, San José.” reported https://www.gfdrr.org/
PreventiveWeb.net shows that from 1980 to 2010, the number significant natural disaster events are 49 and these events were responsible for 312 deaths and caused significant economic damage.
This report also shows that Costa Rica of the same time period had 11 significant earthquakes, 22 significant floods, 9 significant storms and 2 significant volcanic events.
In contrast to all this Costa Rica has repeatedly been listed as one of top retirement and tourist destinations in the world, most recently by International Living Magazine in the The World’s Top Retirement Havens in 2012 report.
Costa Rica’s stunning mountains, bio-reserves, beaches and high value real estate investment opportunities continue to attract more and more foreigners and businesses. 5% of the world’s biodiversity is found on this small land bridge that connects the two great continents of the Americas, making Costa Rica one of the world’s most eco rich environments. And despite the dynamic weather, earthquakes and volcanic dangers, the people of Costa Rica are the happiest in world, ranked #1 the last two years in a row on The Happy Planet Index.
Living on The Ring of Fire can be dangerous, but that is far outweighed by the exhilarating experience of Costa Rica.
The Costa Rica News (TCRN)
San José Costa Rica