David Segura is a Costa Rican who thrived up abroad. That’s why he’s as confused about Costa Rica winter and summer as anyone. Below he tries to make feeling of why Costa Ricans contact summer winter and also winter summer.

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Most would certainly think specifying the periods of the year is a simple process.

There is a many science sustaining the basis for seasons and indicators the the seasons manifest themselves every year with little thought ever before given to their definition.

But what I believed would be straightforward is simply the the opposite in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica supplies the indigenous “verano” (summer) to describe winter and also “invierno” (winter) to describe summer. It is additionally common come hear summer to describe the dried season and winter to explain the wet season.

At very first this seems irrational since in the northern hemisphere, December, January, and also February are the winter months and June, July, and August the summer months.

Living in the northern hemisphere, winter to be obvious and also verified v a thermometer registering lower temperatures, shorter days, tree dropping your leaves, pets hunkering down and dreary clouds remaining overhead. At least this to be my reality growing up.


A usual Northern Hemisphere winter’s job / Mattias Ripp (Flickr) / Commercial use allowed

This all changed when i heard Costa Ricans calling the winter month summer and also summer month winter.

At first I thought this was a translation problem from Spanish come English however after discovering the Spanish words had actually the same meaning, the find to find the reason for ignoring scientific research began.

The facts, the science, mine professors and teachers, my parents, and also all the publications I’ve check out all say this simply isn’t right. It would certainly be like calling the civilization flat in the face of science and known facts.

But amazingly, Costa Ricans space right.

I remained in denial for a lengthy time and I maintained saying, “It ain’t so, Joe”. Yet it is so, and also I hope ns can describe why I’ve concerned this bizarre conclusion contradicting whatever I learned.

Costa Ricans refer to the classic winter months as “summer”. Everyone in Costa Rica call this time the the year, January, “verano” or summer.


A typical Costa Rican winter’s job / James Dyde

There no a scientist, astrophysicist, dictionary, or teacher i can uncover who can specify the Spanish word verano as different from its literal definition except in Costa Rica.

This is one of the couple of places on earth where an entire populace has interchanged the Spanish native invierno and also verano. Yes, as soon as asking who from Costa Rica what the an interpretation of invierno is, the an answer will be, winter, together it have to be. The difficulty arises if you’re in the northern hemisphere and when it applies to the months of June, July, and also August.

In Costa Rica, verano, an interpretation summer, applies during the traditional northern hemisphere winter months. It refers to the Costa Rican dry season. There doesn’t it seems to be ~ to it is in anything documented in regional textbooks or dictionaries providing a clarification. However the informal interchange of the meaning of summer and also winter persists throughout society.

The result of one unscientific survey carried out over the last ten years assisted support my understanding of exactly how Ticos use verano and also invierno.

Everywhere in the people the native invierno way winter and verano means summer except in Costa Rica and also a couple of other tropical countries like Venezuela. Ask any kind of Tico right now and they will certainly say we are in the summer and use the word verano.

Just this week i asked three much more Ticos one last time. Two of these people were indigenous the town of Grecia around 45 minutes eastern of mountain Jose and the various other from main San Jose.

The concern was, what season of the year room we in right currently (January)? The three wondered about are fairly young and also well educated. One is a dentist, another a successful businessperson living in the USA returning for a household visit, and the third another successful businessperson.

Each comment by saying the season we space in right currently is verano – summer.

To it is in fair, every clarified their reply by also adding that the the dried season. Yet all three stuck come their weapons when selecting the indigenous verano to define the season.

Even ~ clarifying the literal definition and confirming our place in the north hemisphere and also with everyone agreeing with that definition, i posed the question again, and also the response was the same: that summer during the month that January.

It’s an overwhelming for anyone exterior Costa Rica to overlook science and what is ingrained in ours minds since we learned about the seasons from an early age. Costa Ricans have grown up for generations understanding that the winter months consisting of January are summer and also the northern hemisphere summer months room winter.

This short article attempts to provide a basis because that the classic worldly understanding of these two periods of the year.

I’ll begin with the universal meaning of the indigenous summer and winter, confirming location and also an explanation of the summer and winter solstice, then proceed with a tiny myth busting and cultural understanding.

I’ll follow up with why Costa Rica is correct to readjust the definition and reverse the definition of these two words. The reader will certainly hopefully get a far better understanding of cultural norms and also how they impact our core beliefs.

Location that Costa Rica: north or southern Hemisphere?

The people Atlas defines Costa Rica’s place as:

“Costa Rica is positioned in both the northern and western hemispheres. Located in phibìc America ~ above the central America isthmus – a somewhat narrow strip of land that connects North and South America – the country is bordered through Nicaragua, Panama, the Pacific Ocean and also the Caribbean Sea.”

Peñas Blancas is the many northern suggest of Costa Rica, top top the Nicaraguan border through a latitude of: 11°12’40.15”N. Punta Burica ~ above the Panamanian border is the most southern suggest with a latitude of: 8°1’48″N.

With a latitude selection between 8 and 11 levels north, there’s no doubt Costa Rica is in the north hemisphere, lying between the Equator and also the Tropic the Cancer.

Definition the summer and winter.

The following step is to identify the actual an interpretation of winter and summer, maintaining in mental you have the right to replace the English words because that the Spanish ones together the an interpretation is the same in both languages.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “winter” as:“the season between autumn and spring, lasting native November to March north of the equator and from might to September south of the equator, once the weather is coldest”.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines winter as:“the season in between autumn and spring consisting of in the northern hemisphere commonly the months of December, January, and February or as reckoned astronomically expanding from the December solstice to the march equinox”.

Wikipedia specifies winter as:“Winter is the coldest season that the year in polar and temperate area (winter does not happen in most of the dry zone). It occurs after autumn and before feather in each year. Winter is led to by the axis that the earth in the hemisphere being oriented far from the Sun. Different cultures define different dates as the begin of winter, and also some usage a meaning based on weather. When it is winter in the northern Hemisphere, that is summer in the southern Hemisphere, and also vice versa”.

And so on. It seems all dictionaries or encyclopedias define winter and also summer as the same. Just Wikipedia establish that culture can specify the begin date, or define the season based on weather. However no resource suggests cultures go to the extreme point of reversing the definition of the indigenous summer and winter.

The scientific research behind summer and winter.

Scientifically, the amount of power in hours and also concentration defined by watt per area of irradiate (energy) highlight the surface ar of the Earth specifies winter and also summer.


The tilt of earth axis and also its ar in the orbit approximately the sunlight determines this. The earth is tilted 23 levels 27 minutes turn off perpendicular come its orbit. As it spins, the North-South axis points gradually moves away from (winter) and toward (summer) the Sun. This determines how countless hours of daylight and also darkness we receive during each that the seasons. In the northern Hemisphere, together we strategy the Winter Solstice (December 21), the daylight hrs are short and also the weather is cold.

As identified by Wikipedia:

“The winter solstice wake up at the prompt when the Sun’s place in the skies is at its greatest angular street on the other side that the equatorial airplane from the observer’s hemisphere. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal the the progressively lengthening nights and also shortening days”.

So the quantity of light throughout the day identify the season. Forget around cold temperatures, dreary skies, wet or dry weather, whatever you use to specify winter. It’s all about the amount of daylight.

If, in fact, the amount of daylight in Costa Rica is shorter in December than any type of other time of the year, climate Costa Rica should be in that winter season appropriate now.

Considering san Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, is 9 degrees north the the equator, it need to be basic to review any meteorological table to identify the sports of daylight transparent the year. If mountain Jose receives much less daylight in January than in July, it would certainly be for sure to speak Costa Rica is now in that winter season as identified by science.

The table listed below shows the months in between October and March as having actually the shortest quantity of daylight in the northern Hemisphere and so satisfies the meaning of winter.


This table reflects the varying size of day v latitude. The period between the climbing and setup of the sun is the job length. That does not encompass the period of twilight before and also after sunrise and sunset. Review the months on the left of the table for the northern hemisphere.

More particular to Costa Rica, timebie.com provides the variety of daylight hours for any day the the year. Using this as the basis, the variety of daylight hrs on 21 December 2018 to be 11 hours, 33 minutes, while the variety of daylight hrs on 21 June 2018 was 12 hours, 41 minutes.



A difference of 1 hour and also 8 minutes between the winter and summer solstice in terms of daylight hours. The distinction is no much and may be thought about negligible, however it shows that December in Costa Rica is winter.

Myth busting.

Then exactly how is it possible they interchange the words because that summer and winter in Costa Rica?

There are numerous thoughts on just how this started. One line of thought is that feels cooler during the merganser season in between May and November and so it should be winter. Others think the dried season clues the start of summer roughly the 2nd week the December because it is hotter, or at least it feels the way.

To validate these beliefs, the Costa Rican Instituto Meteorologico wanted to determine if the temperatures during rainy season are cooler. The IMN produced four different reports for each the the main airports in the nation including Tobias Bolaños airport in mountain Jose, Juan Santamaria worldwide Airport in Alajuela, Daniel Oduber plane in Liberia, and also the Limon airport on the Caribbean coast.

Using data from 3 of the four reports the is simple to testimonial the median maximum and also minimum temperatures by month for assorted parts of the country.

Data for Tobias Bolaños includes weather data because that every 15 minutes end a 10-year period.

If the temperatures show cooler weather throughout the June/July (rainy season) then maybe the communication for just how Costa Rica perceives the temperature and relates it come winter or summer might be a possible explanation.

The Tobias Bolaños airport in the main valley of Costa Rica provides a good reference for nearly half of the country’s population.

The data for average minimum temperature, although close, mirrors definite cooler temperatures throughout the traditional winter months of December come April, if June, July, and August are in fact, on average, warmer.

Altitude is a vital factor in this assessment as Tobias Bolaños airport sit at an elevation of 1,002 meter (3,287 feet). As a reference, temperatures will certainly decrease an median 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit because that every 1,000 feet of elevation acquire or around 1.2 levels Celsius every every 100 meters.


Another condition uses at the Daniel Oduber airport on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica in the city of Liberia, Guanacaste.

The data listed below shows the not just is it much hotter in ~ an elevation of 269 feet (82 meters), yet that over there is no actual noticeable difference between December’s mean maximum the 32.5 C and July’s the 32.7 C.

Interestingly, over there is a 4.9 C difference in between the an extremely rainy month of October with an mean maximum temperature the 31.1 C (87.9 F) and also an median of 299 millimeter of rain during the month and 36 C (96.8 F) throughout the parched month that April as soon as there is just an typical of 67 millimeter of rain.

This could support the Costa Rican belief that the “rainy” season is cooler, and also therefore as good a factor as any kind of to describe this time the year together winter even though the work are much shorter in October.


Comparing both the main Valley and Pacific locations with the Caribbean city the Limon at an elevation of 2 meters, the data mirrors the maximum average temperatures 2-5 C less than in Liberia.

But the an ext important problem is the difference in temperature between December and July. For helpful purposes, this is the very same at 29.3 C versus 29.5 C respectively.

Even as soon as comparing the hottest typical maximum temperature month of October at 30.8 C, the distinction is negligible.

The data doesn’t support the temperature or “it’s cooler” in the Costa Rican winter time that the timeless northern hemisphere summer months of June-August theory. The doesn’t suffice in justifying why Ticos call the classic summer months winter in Costa Rica.


There might be a belief it is warmer in the Costa Rican winter (meaning summer) since of the misunderstanding the sun is farther far from the earth throughout this period.

It’s true the Earth’s distance from the Sun alters during a year. In fact, the closest strategy of the earth to the sunlight happens in winter, around December 21.

It’s hotter nearby up, and cooler at a distance.

But this common-sense notion is no the cause of the seasons. As currently stated, the meaning of winter and summer is due to the fact that of the lot of light throughout the day. So, back it might be possible to think about the proximity that the sun with colder or warmer temperatures and carry out a possible justification for why Costa Ricans have actually interchanged the words summer and winter, the facts nothing justify the change.

So, if it’s not the distance to the sun, and also it’s no the perception the rain is causing cooler temperatures, then why have Costa Ricans interchanged the definition of winter and also summer?

Let’s look in ~ the etymology and meaning of the words winter and summer in both English and Spanish to know why Costa Rica has applied a various meaning.

“Verano”, sharing a typical root with Sanskrit Hima-laya (“abode the snow”). In the significant Romance languages, “spring” was replaced by expression relating to an initial or prime spring (Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian primavera) or season (French printemps). Spanish primavera at first conserved the an interpretation of “beginning” the spring, with Verano introduce to the end of spring – start of summer. When Primavera became the general term because that “spring”, Verano relocated to “summer”. The original Latin because that “summer” survives in estio and estival, return Verano and de Verano space far an ext common.Searching for reason.

Where perform we was standing after every one of this scholastic and clinical mumbo jumbo? Well, appropriate where we started, at least in Costa Rica.

It may be possible to usage several debates to support the Costa Rican basis for using the word winter for what is summer and summer because that what is winter.

One of these arguments could be that the sun is additional away from the earth throughout the month of June, July, etc. Maybe the tiny difference in temperature between the two seasons supports the Costa Rican definition. This would certainly only apply to the northwestern component of the country as the data is inconclusive or showing insufficient differences.

It could be because of the origin of the words – that words invierno (winter) originates from the word come hibernate and also during the Costa Rican dried season it’s hot and people need to “hibernate” indigenous the heat.

Or probably it’s since the word winter might come native the PIE native WED which way “wet” and therefore since of the Tico belief that the wet season is winter. That’s extending it, ns know.

But the rational communication for utilizing either of the words, summer or winter in their ideal context must apply.

The scientific research is clear and also the definitions supporting the data is clear. But regardless that the facts, Costa Rica continues to turning back the meaning of this words since of its culture.

The culture says the is wintertime once it is scientifically summer and vice versa.

A nation, a people, must respect its society to preserve its link to its previous regardless the science.

But there’s a point when a society should acknowledge science together a foundation of the education and learning system in the country. Yet until people can do this transition, the culture of the human being must remain.

Unfortunately, institutions don’t teach the scientific research of summer and also winter, and the social definition appears to have actually prevailed.

It’s together if the world is flat. Eventually, Costa Rica should either eliminate the terms summer and also winter from your vocabulary, use the words properly as science specifies them, or replace them with the indigenous “dry” and also “wet” season.

When using these indigenous one must consider science. Changing their literal meanings adds nothing come our culture. However, bracketing castle in the paper definition of culture, then probably there is a possibility they deserve to cross the divide in between ignoring science and also the standards of a country.

Ultimately, over there doesn’t seem come be any scientifically continuous basis for why Costa Rica has interchanged the words summer and also winter and in the challenge of facts proceeds to usage these words in different ways than the rest of the world. A evaluation of the science, supporting meteorological data for the country, and also general knowledge of “culture” points come one reason. Culture.

Look to “cultural norms” as the explanation, not the science. In the process don’t fully forget the science, though, and also hopefully the world will it is in a far better place through a better cultural understanding. Costa Rica will eventually shift to using the correct an interpretation to the words summer and winter, or change totally to just using the dry or wet season. Let’s no rush it.

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David Segura is a Costa Rican paragliding/paramotoring instructor. When not in the wait he creates middle-income properties approximately San Jose, Costa Rica because that Grupo Vila. David resides in Escazu, Costa Rica.