Argentina’s late heat wave “unparalleled in history”

(CNN) — Argentina is grappling with an unprecedented late-summer heat wave in the south, which is raising temperatures to record highs, wilting crops, fueling wildfires and putting enormous pressure on a country already facing an economic crisis.

According to Maximiliano Herrara, a climatologist who tracks temperature extremes around the world, this summer in Argentina, technically running from December to February, was the hottest on record.

And, so far, no relief has been given in March.

A man cools off in a fountain on 9 de Julio Avenue in Buenos Aires, Argentina on March 8, 2023. (Credit: Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images)

In the first 10 days of March, temperatures in east-central Argentina were 8 to 10 degrees Celsius above normal, according to the country’s National Meteorological Service.

These temperature anomalies sustained over large areas are unprecedented, Herrara told CNN. “Nothing similar has happened in Argentina’s climate history on this scale.”

Herrara said he expects a “scorching summer” in Argentina due to the effects of the La Niña event, a weather pattern that brings hot and dry summers to the region. But he said the incident shocked him.

“The duration of this endless, brutal heat, five months and the intensity was more than I could have imagined,” Herrara said.

Time and again records have been broken in the country.

The maximum temperature in Buenos Aires has been above 30 degrees Celsius every day since February 28. Many parts of the country recorded the highest temperatures in March in 63 years.

In the main agricultural provinces of Córdoba, Santa Fe and northern Buenos Aires, the heat is “devastating” for corn and soybean crops, Michel Attia, a crop analyst at EarthDaily Analytics, told CNN.

“Argentina’s worst drought in 30 years will have a major impact on national corn and soybean production, which is expected to be at least 20-30% lower than last year,” he said.

Wheat is also affected. According to the World Meteorological Organization, exports will decrease by 28% in 2023 compared to last year.

Farmers face losses of about $14 billion, Julio Calzada, head of economic research at the Rosario Grain Exchange, told Reuters.

The agrarian crisis is feared to worsen the country’s economic woes. Figures released this week show annual inflation has exceeded 100% for the first time in three decades, making it one of the highest inflation rates in the world.

The heat-hit country also faces wildfires. More than 100,000 hectares have burned in northeastern Argentina this year, AFP reports.

This photo shows damaged crops amid Argentina’s worst drought in more than six decades in Tostado, north of Santa Fe, Argentina, on February 8, 2023. (Credit: Miguel Lo Blanco/Reuters)

Although Argentina’s brutal heat wave was triggered by La Niña, which ended three years later, some scientists have pointed to the role of the climate crisis in exacerbating the phenomena.

A February report by the World Weather Attribution Initiative found that while climate change is not the main driver of low rainfall in Central South America, it is causing higher temperatures in the region, reducing water availability and exacerbating drought.

Another WWA report in December found that temperatures in Argentina and other South American countries late last year were 60 times higher than human-caused climate change.

Herrera cautioned against blaming individual extreme weather events for the climate crisis, but, he said, “generally speaking, climate change, by feeding more energy to the atmosphere and oceans, may cause more anomalies.” Aggravate such extreme cases.”

As global temperatures continue to rise, heat waves will become more common, scientists say.

— CNN’s Claudia Rebaza and Stefano Pozzebon contributed to this report.

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Esmond Harmon

"Entrepreneur. Social media advocate. Amateur travel guru. Freelance introvert. Thinker."

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