Costa Rica is at risk from several natural disasters, which pose a great threat under a changing climate. Costa Rica has the 8th highest economic risk exposure to three or more hazards and 6.8 percent of its total area is exposed to three or more adverse natural events. Further, 77.9 percent of Costa Rica’s population and 80.1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product reside in areas at high risk of multiple hazards, including floods and landslides, cyclones, storm surge, and sea level rise.

This section provides a summary of key natural hazards and their associated socioeconomic impacts in a given country. And it allows quick evaluation of most vulnerable areas through the spatial comparison of natural hazard data with development data, thereby identifying exposed livelihoods and natural systems.

Natural Hazard Statistics

The charts provide overview of the most frequent natural disaster in a given country and understand the impacts of those disasters on human populations.


Climate change is now recognized to have a significant impact on disaster management efforts and pose a significant threat to the efforts to meet the growing needs of the most vulnerable populations. The demands of disaster risk management are such that concise, clear, and reliable information is crucial. The information presented here offers insight into the frequency, impact and occurrence of natural hazards.

Natural Hazard / Development Nexus

Understanding natural hazard occurrence as well as historical climate conditions, in relation to development contexts, is critical to understanding a country’s historical vulnerability. This tool allows the visualization of different natural hazards or historical climate conditions with socio-economic and development datasets. Select the Development Context and either a Natural Hazard or Climate Condition and overlay horizontally by sliding the toggle left or right to gain a broader sense of historically vulnerable areas.



Data presented under Historical Climate Conditions are reanalysis products derived from ERA5-Land data. ERA5-Land is a global land-surface dataset at 9 km resolution, consistent with atmospheric data from the ERA5 reanalysis from 1950 onward. Climate reanalyses combine past observations with models to generate consistent time series of multiple climate variables. They provide a comprehensive description of the observed climate as it has evolved during recent decades, on 3D grids at sub-daily intervals. 

This data has been collected, aggregated and processed by the Climate Resilience Cluster of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) initiative.

Key Vulnerabilities
  • In recent years (2001-2008), floods and storms have had the highest human and economic impact in Costa Rica – 106,000 people have been affected by floods in 8 flooding events, with the cost of damages reaching US$106 million.
  • Evidence of acceleration in sea level rise (up to 2-3mm/yr) over the past decade suggests an increase in the vulnerability of low-lying coasts, which are already subjected to increasing storm surges.
  • Costa Rica is vulnerable to tropical and subtropical cyclones and their associated storm surges on its Caribbean coast.
  • In 2005, landslides caused major damage to agricultural fields and areas covered with primary forest. 

More information on natural hazards can be found at ThinkHazard.

  • Storm and flood warning systems, coupled with improved sanitation and agricultural adaption measures, would curb damage and help protect vulnerable populations. Impact assessments should also be performed on the aquifers in the San Jose metropolitan area in the Northwestern Region of the Central Valley, as they are the primary source of water for over half of the country’s population.
  • Low-lying coastal regions impacted by sea level rise and increased severe weather require more adequate funding for preparedness, climate proofing, and strategic public infrastructure. Housing designs able to sustain some coastal flooding should be expanded through municipal building codes and land use guidelines.
  • Changes in storm regimes near the coast may further erode coastal morphology, disrupt fishing areas and agricultural lands, and salinize water sources. Impact assessments should be performed to identify the most at-risk ecosystems and water sources and to aid in the creation of appropriate adaptation measures and programs.