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Record breaking heatwave in Brazil raises temperatures to 108 that feel like 137 degrees

​​​​​​​Brazil’s National Institute of Meteorology has issued red alerts for more than 3,000 municipalities throughout the country, which occupies the largest square mileage in the continent

Ipanema beach with mosaic of sidewalk in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil
Ipanema beach with mosaic of sidewalk in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil | Shutterstock

November 16, 2023 6:58am

Updated: November 16, 2023 6:58am

The heat is on in Brazil. “Red alerts” were issued for nearly 3,000 cities and towns throughout the South American country, which is enduring an dangerous heatwave.

More than 100 million people are feeling the impact of the heat, which began Sunday, and meteorologists predict will continue until Friday.

Brazilian authorities have blamed the heatwave on climate change and attributed it to the El Niño phenomenon.

The city of São Paulo endured average temperatures of nearly 100 degrees on Tuesday, according to the National Institute of Meteorology (Inmet) while municipal authorities reported that Rio de Janeiro recorded a record breaking 108.5 degrees on Sunday.

With the humidity, Rio’s 108.5 degrees felt more like 137.3, according to officials.

“I'm exhausted, it's hard,” 22-year old Riquelme da Silva told the AFP news agency from Rio. "When I get home, it's cold water, otherwise I can't even get up because I'm so tired. It's even hard to sleep."

The heat has been so extreme it has impacted businesses and sent street vendors packing.

One such vendor, Dora told AFP the heat was “unbearable” for anyone trying to work outside.

Brazil’s National Institute of Meteorology, also known locally as “Inmet” has issued red alerts for more than 3,000 municipalities throughout the country, which is the largest country on the continent and the fifth largest country in the world.

The agency warned that that temperatures may be as much as 41 degrees above average for more than five days and could create a serious risk to people’s health.

The heatwave, which struck more than a month before the start of the southern hemisphere’s summer, has sent Brazil's energy bills sky-high as people have struggled to remain cool.

Research released last week by Inmet reported that the average temperature in Brazil was above the historical average from July to October.

According to the BBC, “extreme weather is becoming more frequent and more intense in many places around the world because of climate change.”

The British based news agency reported that scientists are attributing the heatwave phenomenon due to “planet-warming greenhouse gases.”

The BBC also reported that another explanation is that the Earth is transitioning through an El Niño weather phase,” during which time global temperatures typically increase.”

According to the U.S. National Ocean Service for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, trade winds blow west along the equator during normal conditions in the Pacific ocean.

This takes warm water from South America towards Asia. To replace that warm water, cold water rises from ocean depths as part of a process called upwelling.

The result can sometimes be “El Niño” and “La Niña”— two opposing climate patterns that change otherwise normal conditions.

El Niño means Little Boy and La Niña means Little Girl in Spanish

“Scientists call these phenomena the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle. El Niño and La Niña can both have global impacts on weather, wildfires, ecosystems, and economies,” the NOAA reports.

According to the U.S. federal agency, El Niño and La Niña episodes can last as long as nine to 12 months, but can also last for years.

The two meteorological events generally take place every two to seven years on average, but they have no predictable occurrences. El Niño occurs more frequently than La Niña, the agency reports on its website.

‘During El Niño, trade winds weaken. Warm water is pushed back east, toward the west coast of the Americas,” the NOAA reports.”

Fishermen in South America first noticed unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean as far back as the 1600s. The called it “El Niño de Navidad” because it would often peak around Christmas time.

“El Niño can affect our weather significantly,” the NOAA writes. “The warmer waters cause the Pacific jet stream to move south of its neutral position. With this shift, areas in the northern U.S. and Canada are dryer and warmer than usual. But in the U.S. Gulf Coast and Southeast, these periods are wetter than usual and have increased flooding.”

Executive Editor

Gelet Martínez Fragela

Gelet Martínez Fragela is the founder and editor-in-chief of ADN America. She is a Cuban journalist, television producer, and political refugee who also founded ADN Cuba.