Articles | Volume 35
10 Jan 2014
 | 10 Jan 2014

Weather and climate socio-economic impacts in Central America for the management and protection of world heritage sites and the Diquis Delta culture in Costa Rica (a case study)

J. A. Amador and E. J. Alfaro

Abstract. The Central America region hosts a valuable amount of World Heritage Sites (WHS), many of them located in areas of floods, landslides, drought, high winds, intense precipitations, and earthquakes. The effective management of WHS requires the understanding of this type of environmental phenomena and their potential impacts on these sites. The objective of this work is twofold. To make an analysis of some of the atmospheric systems (easterly waves, cold fronts and tropical cyclones [TCs]) hitting Central America, to estimate their effects on socio-economic activities and potential impacts on WHS during the period 2002–2012. The second objective is to identify, for a case study, the potential effects of hydro-meteorological events associated with a tropical storm on the Diquis Delta region in southern Costa Rica. This site, an important unique archeological site of stone spheres, has been proposed by this country as a WHS. To achieve both, public data bases like HURDAT (North Atlantic Hurricane Database), and information from regional newspapers and National Emergency Committees, among other sources, were used for the study of socio-economic impacts caused by these natural hazards. To accomplish the latter, course resolution NCEP/NCAR (National Center for Environmental Prediction/National Center for Atmospheric Research) Reanalysis atmospheric data served to initialize version 5 of a numerical atmospheric mesoscale model (MM5). This approach permitted to obtain higher resolution gridded data for a set of atmospheric variables for a case study associated with the formation of tropical storm Alma upon the Pacific basin. The MM5 resulted winds and precipitation, among other variables, were then used to evaluate potential impacts on the WHS region. Among the systems analyzed for Central America, TCs were the ones that most severely impacted regional social life and worsened the already weak regional economies. During the period analyzed, TCs affected regions where WHS are very relevant to cultural life and touristic income. The MM5 derived data shows its potential for providing detailed space-time atmospheric data to help quantify and anticipate impacts for WHS protection and management. The overall results are expected to bring the attention of organizations and governments about the importance of socio-economic and cultural losses associated with the impacts caused by natural hazards near WHS in the region.