Argentina’s record-breaking heat wave has ‘no similarities in history’

(CNN) Argentina is grappling with an unprecedented late-summer heat wave as temperatures soar to record-breaking levels, causing crops to wither, wildfires to spread and putting enormous strain on a country already facing an economic crisis.

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

And so far March has not brought solace.

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 persist over huge areas, are unprecedented, Herrara told CNN. “Nothing like this has ever happened in Argentina’s climatic history on this scale.”

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

“The length — five months — and the intensity of this endless, relentless heat was beyond what I imagined,” Herrara said.

Records have been broken time and time again.

Buenos Aires has seen temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) every day since February 28. Multiple other locations across the country saw the highest temperatures in the past 63 years in March.

In key 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 the last 30 years will have a huge impact on national production of corn and soybeans, which are expected to be at least 20-30% lower than last year,” he said.

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

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

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

The heat-stricken country is also battling wildfires. More than 100,000 hectares (nearly 250,000 acres) have been 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.

While Argentina’s relentless heat wave was triggered by La Niña, which has just ended after three consecutive years, some scientists have pointed to the role the climate crisis plays 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 did cause higher temperatures in the region, likely reducing water availability and making droughts more severe became.

Another WWA report in December found that record 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 for the climate crisis, but, he said, “in general it is true that climate change, by providing more energy to the atmosphere and oceans, could be responsible for greater contrasts appearing on in turn exacerbate such extreme weather conditions.” events.”

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

Claudia Rebaza and Stefano Pozzebon of CNN contributed to this story

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