Chile and Argentina recorded heat records in the middle of the southern winter in early August, caused by a combination of the El Niño phenomenon and climate change, with other South American countries being affected by abnormal temperatures.
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In the Chilean town of Vicuña, on the Cordillera in the Coquimbo region (center), the mercury reached 37°C on Tuesday. This is the highest figure since 1951.
“It’s been more than 70 years since we recorded such a temperature,” Cristobal Torres, from Chile’s Meteorological Department, told AFP.
In Santiago, 450 km to the south, the thermometer showed 24°C on Wednesday and 25°C are expected on Thursday and Friday. Very unusual temperatures for the season.
In neighboring Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, 30°C was exceeded on Tuesday, the hottest August 1 since records began, according to the National Meteorological Service.
The previous record for this day of the year dates back to 1942, with 24.6°C. During the month of August, the mercury normally fluctuates between 9 and 18°C in Buenos Aires.
In Uruguay, several cities spent Wednesday under 30°C.
“What we are experiencing is the superposition of two phenomena: the trend towards global warming due to climate change, plus the El Niño phenomenon,” explained Chilean Environment Minister Maisa Rojas.
El Niño is characterized by an increase in water temperature, 1.5 to 6 degrees above normal. This causes extreme climatic events: torrential rains, floods, avalanches, in addition to heat waves.
“However, when El Niño is over, the global weather situation should remain as extreme,” warns Ms. Rojas, who is also a meteorologist.
In Santiago, Buenos Aires and Montevideo, the situation should return to normal in the following days.
But “it is very likely that the heat record (in Santiago) will be broken this year, and that is extraordinarily abnormal. Ten years ago, we had two heat waves a year, and here we are already talking about nine, ”said Raul Cordero, climatologist at the University of Santiago.
One of the most serious consequences is the melting of the ice on the Chilean mountains, since they are essential to the water supply of the capital.