Argentina’s late-season heatwave ‘has no parallels in history’

Argentina’s late-season heatwave ‘has no parallels in history’

(CNN) – Argentina is grappling with an unprecedented late-summer heat wave in the south that is seeing temperatures rise to levels never seen before, causing crops to wilt, helping to spread wildfires and adding pressure to a country already facing an economic crisis.

This summer in Argentina, which technically runs from December to February, was the hottest on record, according to Maximiliano Herrara, a climatologist who tracks extreme temperatures around the world.

And so far, Mars has offered no relief.

Image copyright Luis Robayo / AFP / Getty Images Image caption A man rests in a fountain at 9 de Julio Avenue in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 8, 2023 (Luis Robayo / AFP / Getty Images)

Temperatures during the first 10 days of March were 8 to 10 degrees Celsius above normal in eastern central Argentina, according to the country’s National Meteorological Service.

These temperature differences, which persisted over large areas, are unprecedented, Hirara told CNN. “Nothing similar has happened in the history of Argentina’s climate on this scale.”

Herrara said he was expecting a “hot summer” in Argentina due to the effects of La Niña, a weather pattern that tends to bring hotter, drier summers to the region. He said that what happened shocked him.

“The duration, the five months, and the intensity of this endless, brutal heat was beyond anything I could have imagined,” Harara said.

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Records have been repeatedly broken in the country.

Buenos Aires has recorded maximum temperatures above 30°C every day since February 28. Many other places in the country recorded their hottest temperatures in 63 years during the month of March.

In the key agricultural provinces of Córdoba, Santa Fe and northern Buenos Aires, the heat has been “catastrophic” for corn and soybean crops, Mikael Attia, crop analyst with EarthDaily Analytics told CNN.

“The worst drought that Argentina has experienced in the past 30 years will have a significant impact on national corn and soybean production, which is expected to be 20-30% lower than last year,” he said.

Wheat is also affected. Exports are expected to fall 28% in 2023 compared to last year, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

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

He fears that the agricultural crisis will exacerbate the country’s economic problems. Figures released this week showed that the annual inflation rate exceeded 100% for the first time in three decades, one of the highest inflation rates in the world.

The heat-stricken country is also dealing with wildfires. An AFP report says that more than 100,000 hectares have burned this year in northeastern Argentina.

This photo shows damaged crops amid the worst drought Argentina has seen in sixty years, in Tostado, north of Santa Fe, Argentina, on February 8, 2023 (Photo credit: Miguel Lo Blanco/Reuters)

While the extreme heatwave in Argentina has been fueled by the La Niña phenomenon, which has just ended after three consecutive years, some scientists have pointed to the role the climate crisis plays in intensifying these events.

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A February report from the World Weather Attribution Initiative found that while climate change has not been the main driver of reduced precipitation in central South America, it is causing warmer temperatures in the region, likely reducing water availability and exacerbating droughts.

And another WWA report in December found that record temperatures in Argentina and other South American countries late last year were 60 times more likely than human-caused climate change.

Herrera cautioned against blaming individual extreme weather events for the climate crisis, but said, “Overall, it is true that climate change, by feeding more energy into the atmosphere and oceans, can be responsible for greater disparities.” Such extreme events make it worse.”

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

CNN’s Claudia Ripaza and Stefano Pozzibon contributed to this report.

Aygen Marsh

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