You may have noticed that it is particularly windy these days. If you are a surfer, you have definitely noticed that those strong winds are predominantly offshore. Every year, starting sometime in December and usually lasting through March, the Papagayo wind returns to the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
With these winds come perfectly groomed waves and colder water temperatures. You can also expect the occasional sand blasts to the body on the beach and falling tree branches; so, watch out! The summer months in Costa Rica rival the cliché Groundhog’s Day. Every day is sunny, dry, and very windy. Record wind gusts have been recorded at 70 mile per hour!
Have you ever wondered why though? Why is this wind so predictable and where does it come from?
Without getting too technical, here’s a brief breakdown of the seasonal phenomenon known as the Papagayo wind. Simply put, wind is caused by air flowing from high pressure to low pressure areas. The strong offshore wind that you are experiencing right now actually originates in North America and flows across the Gulf of Mexico.
There are three zones in Central America were these high-pressure systems escape to low-pressure areas. Lake Nicaragua is one of these zones, and the one that affects Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast.
NASA explains this wind activity quite precisely.
“In winter, cold high-pressure weather systems move southward from North American over the Gulf of Mexico. These high-pressure systems create strong pressure gradients between the atmosphere over the Gulf of Mexico and the warmer, moister atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. Just as a river flows from high elevations to lower elevations, the air in the high-pressure system will “flow” downhill toward lower pressure, but the Cordillera mountains block the flow of air, channeling it through Chivela Pass in Mexico, Lake Nicaragua in Nicaragua, and the Gillard Cut in Panama.”
These consistent gusty winds also cause the warmer surface water in the ocean to mix with the cooler nutrient-dense water the lies just a bit deeper. An entire food chain actually depends on the algae blooms that take place along the Pacific Coast when the nutrients are brought up from the depths.
Aside from blessing surfers with perfect surf winds, this seasonal wind is one of the main ingredients for the summer feast that takes place in the ocean.
The Papagayo winds are here to stay for the next couple of months, so brace yourself and enjoy the summer surfs in Costa Rica! And to answer your question, yes it will be offshore tomorrow in Playa Grande.