Closing or downsizing classrooms, orphanages for children, power outages in neighborhoods, temperature records falling one after the other: Argentina and its capital in particular are suffocated by an endless summer, the hottest in its history.
Red alert from health authorities across more than a third of the country over the weekend and non-stop for a week in the Greater Buenos Aires area, where the thermometer hit 34 degrees on Thursday: Argentina is experiencing its ninth heat wave this spring – a southern summer since early November.
The previous wave, in February, dropped records, recording the hottest summer in Buenos Aires since records began (1906) with an average daily temperature of 25.6 degrees (night included).
Nationwide, it’s the hottest summer since 1961, and statistics for March continue to rewrite: March 3, according to the National Weather Service (SMN), 38 degrees Celsius.
In the capital, which is very vegetative, especially after the great beautification work of the early 20th century, March is generally a pleasant month, a month of moderate heat, mild evenings. But this year, the lows are not falling, and the old ones are digging into the memory.
“This is the hottest (month) of March that I can remember in my life, actually. The capital is completely unused to this,” worries 70-year-old Ricardo Merkin, walking early in the morning in the city park of Palermo. And who, weakened by the heat, says he’s been monitoring his blood pressure “as never before for 15 years.”
Sunbathing by the lake in El Rocedal Park in Buenos Aires, March 9, 2023 (AFP – Luis ROBAYO)
Young people, in turn, are skipping school, which resumed last week. Many activities in the province of Buenos Aires have been suspended due to a lack of air conditioning equipment.
“The little ones faint, they can’t concentrate, imagine 39 students in a room with no ventilation,” Patricia Castro, mother of a 7-year-old student from the Boedo area, told AFP. However, she resigned herself to sending her daughter to school, “because there is no one to keep her at home.”
– La Nina shambles –
And in many areas of the agglomeration, blackouts, not uncommon in summer, follow one after another due to high demand in the network, like 200,000 houses without electricity on February 10, on a particularly hot day.
“Heatwaves are part of normal climate variability. But with climate change, there are more persistent and intense waves everywhere. And in Argentina, they also occur in Patagonia,” Enzo Campetella, an independent meteorologist, told AFP. On February 9, the mercury column in Patagonia reached 42 degrees.
In fact, the heat wave is not only out of the ordinary for March, but also due to “its duration of seven days in Buenos Aires” instead of three on average, emphasizes Cindy Fernandez, SMN meteorologist.
However, it is difficult to attribute everything to climate change, she notes. The country’s current climate scenario is also indebted to the La Niña phenomenon, which caused a severe drought for three years, with heavy losses predicted by the soy-wheat-corn triptych on which Argentina’s agro-exports depend so much.
A man cools off in a fountain on 9 de Julio Avenue in Buenos Aires on March 8, 2023. (AFP – Luis ROBAIO)
La Niña is coming to an end and “should weaken and then disappear with the onset of the southern autumn, but the atmosphere is slow to react,” says Cindy Fernandez. Fall temperatures could continue to be 40-55% above average, according to SMN. In fact, a new wave should appear next week, the meteorologist warns.
Next week, by the way, there will also be an inflation index for February, which should confirm, at an interannual level approaching 100% (94.5% in 2022), that the country is definitely finding it difficult to breathe. “We can’t get out of this. It’s true that it’s hard, this heat, but I think inflation is worse,” Valeria Vorobei, a 50-year-old administrative worker, laughs bitterly.