RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — It’s still spring in Brazil, but a dangerous heat wave is sweeping across large swathes of the country, forcing Rio de Janeiro’s vendors off the streets due to health alerts and driving up energy demand amid reports of power outages.
The National Institute of Meteorology has declared a red alert for the center-west, southeast, and parts of the north regions in Brazil due to the extreme heat, stating that there is a high chance of significant harm and accidents, posing a risk to both physical well-being and human life.
On Tuesday morning in Rio, the heat index reached a record high of 58.5 degrees Celsius (137 Fahrenheit), which is a measurement that takes into account both temperature and humidity. Although the actual temperatures decreased slightly on Wednesday, they are expected to rise again to 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) on Thursday.
According to Núbia Beray, who coordinates Rio de Janeiro Federal University’s GeoClima laboratory, the inhabitants of Rio, known as “Cariocas,” have always associated sun, heat, and the beach with their identity. However, even for many of them, the current conditions are excessive.
Beray stated that Cariocas return home from work on buses that lack air conditioning. He also mentioned that street vendors are unable to work due to the risk of fainting, caused by the intense heat.
High temperatures can impact respiration, kidney function, and heart health, with infants and senior citizens being especially vulnerable.
“The city hall of Rio, formerly known as Twitter, announced on Tuesday that the maximum temperature has reached 39°C, even though summer has not officially begun. The mayor’s office advised the public to consume fruits and vegetables and to carry an umbrella for shade.”
According to the meteorology company MetSul, temperatures in Sao Paulo reached 37.7 degrees Celsius (99.9 F), which was close to breaking a record. Last week, Mato Grosso do Sul state, located in the interior of the country, recorded a temperature of 43 degrees Celsius (109.4 F), the highest temperature during this heat wave, according to the national meteorology institute, known as Inmet.
Many Brazilians relied on fans, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers to beat the heat, causing a surge in energy consumption according to utility companies. Power failures were documented in the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
In the midst of extreme temperatures, large areas of the Pantanal biome, the largest tropical wetland in the world, are currently being consumed by wildfires in the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. According to the Environmental Satellite Applications Laboratory at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, the fires have destroyed an area equivalent to the size of Cyprus, approximately 947,000 hectares (3,600 square miles).
The weather in South America is impacted by the natural occurrence known as El Niño, which causes the surface waters in the Equatorial Pacific region to warm periodically. According to climatologist Danielle Ferreira from Inmet, this year saw an unusually rapid rise in ocean temperatures, occurring in just a few months.
Ferreira stated that this suggests the effects are increasing at a faster pace.
According to Ferreira, El Niño has traditionally resulted in dry conditions in the northern regions of Brazil and heavy precipitation in the south. However, the effects of this weather phenomenon have been exceptionally severe this year.
The Amazon rainforest has experienced a severe drought, leaving communities that rely on the dried-up waterways stranded without access to fuel, food, or clean water. In the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, devastating floods have resulted in the deaths of many individuals.
Researchers have noted an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, attributing it to the effects of human-induced climate change.
According to a recent study by the National Institute for Space Research, a federal agency, heat waves have increased in frequency by seven times over the last 70 years. The current heat wave is the eighth one to affect Brazil in 2021.
According to a recent study from a federal agency, the northeastern state of Bahia now has a region that exhibits desert-like characteristics. This is the first instance of such a phenomenon in the country.
According to hydrologist Javier Tomasella, as the Earth’s temperatures increase, water is evaporating at a faster rate. This is causing desertification, which is occurring in various areas around the world.
Tomasella expressed that they had never witnessed anything similar before.