Temperatures in South America, especially in Chile and Argentina, are reaching alarmingly high levels never before experienced in the southern winter.
Map of South America temperature anomalies on August 1, 2023. Note the large black areas in the map, indicating the highest deviations from normal. Data provided by the European Space Agency's Copernicus Project and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. Image: Extreme Temperatures Around the World, via Twitter/X
In Chile’s capital city of Santiago, the average temperature on August 2 should be 21.1°C (70°F). In Vicuna, located in the central part of the country, the temperature should be even cooler, a city usually enjoying moderately cool weather every August 1 there with a typical high of 17.2°C (63° F).
Yet this year, while Santiago reaching a peak of 24° C (75° F) on August 2 might not have seemed that much out of line, Vicuna’s temperature rose to 37° C (99° F) on August 1. That puts Vicuna’s peak at almost 20° C hotter than normal.
In nearby Argentina, Buenos Aires saw its peak measurements rising over 30° C (86° F) on August. Its average temperature for the same day is just 12°C (54°F), with a typical range running between 9° C and 18° C. The temperature the city experienced this August 1 was the hottest in 117 years.
The European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts says temperatures in both Chile and Argentina have been running from 10° C and 20° C above normal this year, not the 1.2° C that the IPCC claims is the average global increase.
This is, according to climatologist Maximiliano Herrera, a weather event which is “rewriting all climatic books”.
"Unbelievable temperatures up to 38.9C in the Chilean Andine areas in mid winter!,” he said in a recent statement about the terrifying weather patterns. “Much more than what Southern Europe just had in mid-summer at the same elevation.”
Professor Martin Jacque of Chile’s University of Concepcion, said the shift in weather patterns that was causing the heat waves this month were partly due to changes in atmospheric circulation. It is also amplified somewhat by the early stages of El Niño, which eventually will make it even hotter. All that, plus ongoing global heating, is exacerbating an already tough weather pattern shift for the country and the continent.
Martin Jacques, a professor at Chile's University of Concepcion, explained that while some of the temperature increase is expected during this time of the year due to atmospheric circulation, these extreme temperatures have been exacerbated by El Nino.
South America is not the only region in the Southern Hemisphere which is experiencing record heat waves.
In Australia, for example, a recent ABC news report noted that, “A lack of cold fronts since late July has allowed temperatures to climb up to 10 above average for eight consecutive days.”
The report went on to note that on August 2, "the whole of Australia, apart from the WA west coast, was warmer than normal". Temperatures across the nation were the hottest experienced in the region at this time in over ten years.
Melbourne, for example, reached 19.8° C (68° F) on August 3, the hottest it has been in a decade. Hobart reached 19.6° C (67° F), a peak not seen in 20 years. And Adelaide experienced a high of 24.7° C (76.5° F), the warmest that city has seen on that date for 48 years.
Andrew King, a senior lecturer in the University of Melbourne’s climate science group, laid out part of what Australia might expect as temperatures continue to remain hot and rise even higher.
"Warm winters in Australia can negatively affect some parts of the economy, including the ski industry,” he explained in a recent interview. “It also disrupts flora and fauna and increases the chance of 'flash droughts' -- where drier-than-normal conditions turn into severe drought in the space of weeks.”
He also pointed out that such hot temperatures combined with historically low rainfall could ignite an early start to this year’s fire season in southeastern Australia.
All this, added to July already being on record as the hottest month on record for the Northern Hemisphere, is only going to get worse as global heating gets worse.
As Professor Jacque at Chile's University of Concepcion put it, "even though it might appear the heat waves being experienced now might appear “extreme”, they “could gradually become more and more normal in a few years”.