Argentina, in an unprecedented heat wave combined with drought

Students who attend school in bathing suits and sandals, neighbors who cool off in plastic pools installed on the sidewalks and entire buildings without electricity account for the hottest summer on record in Argentina with extreme temperatures and little rainfall, conditions that experts forecast which will continue through the fall.

The South American country suffers this week the tenth heat wave since November, before the start of summer. After several towns in the center and north broke daily records for maximum and minimum temperatures in February, the climatic phenomenon continued in the first half of March with a background drought that did not let up.

“I’ve never experienced it, it’s like we’re close to the sun,” said Liliana Procopovich, 64, sitting with her daughter Julieta under the shade of a tree in Centenario Park in the Argentine capital, where the temperature has dropped in recent days. It approached 40 degrees Celsius. “It seemed real to me, because of how it hits, how it stings, it hurts. We come to the park, we get wet. But it’s very difficult.”

The National Meteorological Service (SMN) reported that this is the warmest summer since 1961, when temperature measurement began at the national level. The previous record dated from the summer of 1988-1989.

At the Francisco Gurruchaga de Rosario elementary school – 200 kilometers north of Buenos Aires – the authorities allowed students to attend class in bathing suits and sandals and cooled them down with hoses during recess.

“You have to approach it from learning. We have never experienced something like this and the school has to respond, it is our obligation to interpret what is happening,” said the school’s director, Mariana Sánchez, to local media.

The hot summer coincides with below-normal rainfall as a result of the La Niña phenomenon. This has been the cause of an exceptional drought in several provinces. Only in the Pampas region – center of agricultural production – it rained in total this summer between 200 and 400 millimeters below normal.

However, the SMN clarified in a report that other factors also influence atmospheric circulation “of a smaller scale that were aligned in the phase where they inhibit precipitation and favor greater warming and an increase in temperatures, this in accordance with the effects of climate change and global warming”.

In the tourist neighborhood of La Boca in Buenos Aires, some residents installed plastic pools on the sidewalk to cool off, disobeying official recommendations for responsible use of water due to supply problems as a result of the drought and power outages.

This Tuesday, more than 150,000 users lacked electricity in the Argentine capital, according to the Edesur service operator.

“This is terrifying, a lot of merchandise is lost. It is already unsustainable, it has no reason to be. You can’t keep the store open,” lamented Vicente Rimauro, 60, the owner of a grocery store in the Caballito neighborhood of the capital, one of the most affected by the power outage. “They go several times, that’s why we had to buy a generator set.”

With a week to go until the start of autumn, the weather conditions are not expected to change.

Although experts forecast a weakening of La Niña, “there will be no major changes and higher than normal temperatures are expected,” reported the SMN.

“We are all looking forward to winter,” begged Valeria Oliva, 31, sitting on the grass in a park with her partner and their dog.

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