Argentina’s record heat wave has ‘no similarity in history’

(CNN) Argentina is grappling with an unprecedented heatwave in late summer as temperatures reach record highs, causing crops to wilt, spreading wildfires and adding huge pressure on a country already facing an economic crisis.

The country’s summer, which technically runs from December to February, was by far the hottest on record, according to Maximiliano Herrara, a climatologist who tracks extreme temperatures around the world.

And, so far, March has offered no relief.

Temperatures during the first 10 days of March were 8 to 10 degrees Celsius (14 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal in east-central Argentina, according to the country’s National Meteorological Service.

These temperature anomalies, which have persisted over large areas, are unprecedented, Herrara told CNN. “There is nothing like it that has ever happened in Argentina’s climatic history on this scale.”

Herrara said he had expected a “scorching summer” in Argentina due to the impacts of La Niña, a weather pattern that tends to bring hotter, drier summers to the region. But what happened shocked him, he said.

“The duration – five months – and the intensity of this brutal and endless heat exceeded what I had imagined,” said Herrara.

Records have been broken time and time again.

Buenos Aires has seen high temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) every day since February 28. Several other places across the country recorded their highest temperatures in the past 63 years in March.

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

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

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

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

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

The heat-stricken country is also grappling with wildfires. More than 100,000 hectares (nearly 250,000 acres) have burned this year in northeastern Argentina, according to an AFP report.

Damaged crops, amid Argentina’s worst drought in sixty years, in Tostado, northern Santa Fe, Argentina, February 8, 2023.

As Argentina’s brutal heatwave was brought on by La Niña, which has just ended after three consecutive years, some scientists have pointed to the role the climate crisis is playing in intensifying these events.

A February report from the World Weather Attribution initiative found that while climate change was not the main driver of low rainfall in central South America, it was causing higher temperatures in the region, reducing probably water availability and making the drought more severe.

Another WWA report in December found that record high temperatures in Argentina and other South American countries late last year were made 60 times more likely by human-induced climate change.

Herrera cautioned against blaming individual extreme weather events on the climate crisis, but, he said, “generally speaking, it is true that climate change, by fueling more energy in the atmosphere and the oceans, could be responsible for greater contrasts which, in turn, exacerbate these extreme events.”

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

CNN’s Claudia Rebaza and Stefano Pozzebon contributed to this story

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