(Bloomberg, October 23, 2023).) – A man lit a small fire to heat his coffee pot. It’s a hot and windy day in the countryside on the outskirts of Córdoba, Argentina’s second largest city. A sudden gust of wind caused the fire to spread.
The flames quickly closed in on Villa Carlos Paz, a sleepy resort town known for its mild climate and views of San Roque Lake and nearby mountains. Local residents People were filmed throwing buckets of water on the flames from their balconies and hundreds were evacuated.
The wildfire, the largest in the province so far this year, burned for days, kept alive by high spring temperatures of around 37 degrees Celsius and strong winds.
El Nino in Antposing
The incident is one of many examples of the effects of the hot weather, which will be the hottest year on record. In recent months — winter and early spring in the Southern Hemisphere — South America has been engulfed in unusual heat.
Climate change, the arrival of the first El Niño in nearly four years and massive deforestation from intensive agriculture will make the continent’s coming summer even hotter and drier, scientists say.
“We are seeing record heat events in the Southern Hemisphere, and this has been a warmer winter in parts of Africa and South America than in the past,” said KNMI researcher Ijitin Pinto.
“In the coming months, strengthening heat waves in South America will intensify – with more hot days and more heat waves.”
Warmest winter since 1965
Peru had its warmest winter since records began in 1965, with a temperature of 27.6°C in the capital Lima on July 5 and average temperatures in July and August of 19.4°C and 19.3°C, respectively, the country’s meteorological agency said.
In early August, a heat wave brought temperatures of around 38°C to parts of central and northern Argentina and Chile, 10 to 20°C above the average at the height of winter in that part of the world.
The unusually warm weather melted snow, changing the flow of rivers and water availability in Chile’s main agricultural regions.
A second heat wave in late August and early September affected a wide area that included Paraguay, central Brazil, and parts of Bolivia and Argentina. Climate change has made the 10-day episode 100 times longer.
This has been revealed in a study World weather attributeA network of scientists using a peer-reviewed system to determine the impact of global warming on extreme events.
Scientists ran temperature data from a South American heat wave through a model and simulated the same episode in a world without climate change. They found that global temperatures would have been 1.4°C to 4.3°C cooler without warming caused by human greenhouse gas emissions.
In Brazil, where about 80% of domestic electricity generation is hydroelectric, the government is electrifying diesel plants to avoid blackouts as a drought in the Amazon cuts river supplies and kills river dolphins.
A large hydroelectric dam on the Madeira River was shut down earlier this month due to low water levels, and in Amazonas state, a combination of illegal deforestation and unauthorized burning is fueling growing wildfires.
“Deforested land absorbs more solar radiation because it is barren, accumulating heat and reflecting it back into the atmosphere,” says Pinto. “Where there are no trees or forests, water accumulates quickly, causing high runoff, erosion and flooding.”
An increase in heat-related events
A new heat wave in northern Argentina in October brought temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius, the country’s meteorological agency said. In Córdoba, a new round of wildfires has burned at least 5,800 hectares. Recently, extremely high temperatures have been observed in parts of Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil.
“Heat is not new, we’ve had similar events in the past,” said Lincoln Alves, a researcher at Brazil’s National Space Research Institute in Sao Paulo and co-author of the WWA study. “However, we have seen an increase in the number and magnitude of cases in recent decades.”
The impact of El Niño is still in its early months, and the region is gearing up for its worst effects in early 2024. But the effects of extreme heat and lack of rain are long-lasting.
“Some rivers are already at very low, historic lows; It will take time to return to normal values,” says Ana Paula Cunha Nature Center for Monitoring and Early Warning of Natural Disasters In Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil. “The longer the drought lasts, the more serious the consequences.”
The impact was underestimated
The impact and even magnitude of these periods is greatly underestimated because most countries in South America lack the thousands of weather stations that allow meteorologists to monitor heat waves and temperature records in developed countries.
Policymakers have struggled in the past to respond decisively to official warnings about the impacts of El Niño, adapt to climate change, and limit their country’s contribution to climate change.
Climate-skeptic leaders have also slowed progress, although scarce funding and reliable information have sometimes hindered action.
In Brazil, which holds nearly 60% of the Amazon rainforest, deforestation reached a record high in 2022 during the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro. This president sought to facilitate economic activity in protected areas and open up indigenous reserves to mining and agriculture.
His successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has pledged to end illegal deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest by 2030, and is encouraging leaders of other Amazon countries to join.
Climate battleground Argentina
Argentina is poised to become the region’s next climate battleground. Libertarian Javier Millay has in the past denied scientific evidence that climate change is caused by greenhouse gases from human activities. He has called global warming “another socialist lie”.
Miley will face incumbent Economy Minister Sergio Massa in a runoff on November 19.
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