Ground Temperatures Hit 54 Degrees as Argentina Suffers Blackouts

Ground Temperatures Hit 54 Degrees as Argentina Suffers Blackouts
A cloudless view (right) and land surface temperature (left) of southern Argentina. (Image: European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-3)

Ground temperatures climbed above 54 degrees Celsius in parts of Argentina this week as the country suffers through a shockingly hot start to summer. Air temperatures were equally suffocating, leading to widespread blackouts as the Southern Cone attempts to beat the heat.

Copernicus’s Sentinel 3 satellite recorded the extreme ground temperatures. Those temperatures are different than air temperatures, which is our usual way of conveying how hot a place is. The surface of the Earth tend to be hotter than air temperatures, given that heat can more easily dissipate in the air.

But air temperatures are still pretty unbearable in Argentina. On Tuesday, temperatures rose to 41.5 degrees Celsius in Buenos Aires, the second-highest reading in the city in more than 100 years of records. Other parts of the country saw temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius. The heat was so bad in Argentina on Tuesday that it was briefly the hottest place in the world, surpassing parts of Australia that usually have that honour during austral summer.

“This is a heat wave of extraordinary characteristics, with extreme temperature values ​​that will even be analysed after its completion, and it may generate some historical records for Argentina temperatures and persistence of heat,” meteorologist Lucas Berengua told Reuters.

Infrastructure has sagged in the face of sweltering temperatures. Around 700,000 people were without power for hours on Tuesday afternoon as temperatures rose and the grid struggled; the city’s electric providers blamed increased demand from cooling during the heatwave. The agency that provides drinking water also asked residents to take conservation measures, saying that its purification system was affected during the outage.

An illustration show how a slight rise in the average temperature raises the odds of even more extreme heat. (Gif: Climate Central) An illustration show how a slight rise in the average temperature raises the odds of even more extreme heat. (Gif: Climate Central)

Climate change is a key ingredient in basically all heat waves now. The planet has warmed roughly 1 degree Celsius since the world began burning fossil fuels. That seeming small rise has majorly shifted the odds toward more extreme heat, and observations around the world have borne that out.

The ground temperatures recorded this week echo readings in the northern hemisphere a few months ago, and are a foreboding warning to the southern hemisphere as it begins its summer. A scorching summer last year, where July was the hottest month in recorded history, made ground temperatures spike in Turkey during wildfire season, in the Pacific Northwest during that region’s heatwave, and even the Arctic Circle, where ground temperatures hit a shocking 48 degrees Celsius in Siberia in June.

“I was always born here in a temperate climate and I saw how the temperature changed over the years, and it is not what we’re used to,” Marta Lorusso, an architect and a resident of Buenos Aires, told Reuters.

Unfortunately, the heat isn’t letting up any time soon. The forecast calls for temperatures to reach around 40 degrees Celsius through Friday, before the heat finally breaks this weekend.