ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Central America: Climate, Vegetation, and Animal Life

Updated on April 5, 2014


The three chief climatic influences on Central America are low latitudinal location extending from about 8° to 18°N, contrasting windward-leeward exposure to the northeast trade winds, and elevation ranging from sea level to over 13,000 feet (4,000 meters). Seasonal differences are based more on precipitation than temperature. In general, the heaviest rainfall occurs between May and November. Because of frontal exposure to the moisture-laden trade winds that sweep in from the Atlantic, the Caribbean coast and eastern slopes get twice as much rain as the Pacific side, which lies in the rainshadow of the mountains. Total rainfall varies widely, from as little as 20 inches (500 mm) in the driest leeward locations to more than 200 inches (5,000 mm) on exposed eastern headlands.

Climate changes with elevation. The zone between sea level and 2,500 feet (750 meters) has an unmodified tropical climate and accounts for the production of most of Central America's commercial banana and cacao crops. A more temperate climate extends from 2,500 to 6,000 feet (1,800 meters). This is the zone that produces most of the coffee, tobacco, maize, and other food crops and that has the highest population in all the countries except Nicaragua. Above 6,000 feet agriculture is based on middle-latitude crops, such as wheat and apples, and on livestock.


Drainage is affected by both climate and slope conditions. The highlands are better drained than the lowlands, and the Pacific coast is better drained than the Caribbean. Of the numerous streams that originate in the highlands, those that descend to the Pacific are short and swift, and virtually none is navigable even for small vessels. The streams that flow to the Caribbean are longer and eventually merge into coastal marshes. Some of these, such as the San Juan between Costa Rica and Nicaragua and the Coco (Segovia) between Nicaragua and Honduras, are navigable for small craft. Numerous lagoons line the coast, and large lakes, such as Managua in Nicaragua and Atitlán in Guatemala, lie in the interior.

Vegetation and Animal Life


In prehistoric times the Central American land bridge served as a roadway over which plants and animals migrated between North and South America. Natural vegetation in the region is varied. Mangrove swamps occur on both coasts. The hot, wet Caribbean highland slopes and coastal lowlands are characterized by a tropical evergreen forest that includes mahogany, balsa, rosewood, palm, and other tropical tree species. On the drier Pacific slope is a mixture of evergreen and deciduous forest alongside savanna grass, while cactus and desert shrubs grow in the driest locales. Inland, at higher elevations, is a mixed forest of deciduous oaks and pines.

Hundreds of species of birds, ranging from large eagles to tiny hummingbirds, are native to the forests and swamps of Central America. In addition there are numerous varieties of insects. Amphibians, such as crocodiles, turtles, frogs, and lizards, are found in the forests or in warm waters. Among the mammals are monkeys, deer, jaguars, and small rodents.

Physical Hazards

Central Americans have to cope with a variety of natural hazards. Mosquitoes and parasites abound. Destructive hurricanes frequently strike the coastal margins, especially on the Caribbean side, destroying crops and causing floods and landslides that may take thousands of lives. No part of Central America is free from earthquakes, which have devastated the capitals of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua more than once and with appalling death tolls. Also on record are violent volcanic eruptions that, besides killing thousands of people and cattle, may cause catastrophic crop damage from falling ash. All of Central America's volcanoes are on the Pacific side of the highlands.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)