It was recently reported that the majority, if not all, of Argentina is experiencing a temperature increase. A heatwave is defined as “an extended period of hot weather relative to the expected conditions of the area at that time of year, which may be accompanied by high humidity”. Nearby countries are also experiencing the same. Some areas reached temperatures of up to 45 °C, the highest recorded temperature of all time. This has also made Buenos Aires the country with the highest recorded temperature throughout the globe. Stakeholders have noted that 2021 was the “sixth warmest year on record” due to climate change. Because of this heatwave, a warm air mass was seen over Argentina.
The increase in temperature has aggravated the drought that the country has been experiencing for so long. It has negatively affected the agriculture industry and electrical facilities. However, the country may experience a decrease in temperature by next week. This will also be accompanied by rain showers, providing a cooler temperature for individuals residing in the country and their crops.
Heatwaves and the Collapse of Electrical Grids
The increase in temperature is also affecting the electrical grid in Argentina. Last Friday, January 14, 2022, 75,000 users of the electrical grid in Buenos Aires did not have access to electricity. This is because there is more demand for such services as the temperature increases. However, the demand for electricity is going beyond what the infrastructure can handle, causing power outages. In response, users conducted a protest in Avenida General Paz, demanding the resumption of electricity.
The improvement of electrical services depends on the investment in the industry. There is still much to be done to ensure that infrastructure is adequate to support the demand for electricity. However, this comes at a cost that will be translated into increased service fees for their users. This is not as easy to do given the inflation rate in the country.
Health Effects of Heatwaves on Individuals
The heatwave has been unbearable for some citizens, especially those without access to air conditioning. Workers are also affected by the heatwave as they go about their daily activities, necessitating frequent hydration to avoid the health consequences of the temperature rise. The government encouraged citizens to keep out of the harsh rays of the sun, choose light clothing, and hydrate as often as needed.
Heat-related illnesses can also occur when an individual is unable to regulate their body temperature in the midst of increasing environmental temperatures. Those in the extreme age groups and people with underlying chronic conditions are the most vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. To avoid developing such illnesses, the CDC advises individuals to stay hydrated, opt not to choose beverages that are high in sugar, stay in an area that is cool, and wear clothing made of materials that are light-weight and not fitted. Symptoms that should be watched out for that indicate the presence of a heat-related illness are high body temperature, skin changes, fast and strong pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and loss of consciousness.
The Agricultural Sector is Not Spared
The drought has been occurring for two years already. This results in soil that is dry, further aggravating the increase in temperature. The drought also has implications for the water level in the country, specifically the main transport river it utilizes. With a decrease in water levels, there has been a concurrent decrease in the ability of the country to export its farm goods. Costs related to the transport of such goods have also increased.
Exports of farm products remain the country’s main source of hard currency. The 2nd biggest supplier of corn in the world, The South American grains powerhouse, is located in Argentina. The biggest supplier of soymeal livestock feed is also based in Argentina. The decrease in water levels in the Parana River in Brazil also has consequences for Argentina. The ports located in Rosario, in Santa Fe province, experience a similar decrease in water levels. This is problematic because this port caters to 80% of the agricultural exports of the country. They have been experiencing an 18-25% decrease in their normal capacity. The Parana River was measured at 0.06 meters, compared to the past 24 years when it was at 2.92 meters.
The cost of transporting exported goods is also increasing since alternatives have to be used. These goods are moved through the use of trucks to get to the Atlantic ports located in Bahia Blanca and Necochea. The option of using trucks and changing routes is more costly due to the additional resources and logistical considerations that need to be accounted for.
Mr. Isaac Hankes, a weather analyst at Refinitiv, claims that this type of drought is a situation that occurs once every 100 years. To recover, the Parana River needs 130% of the expected rainfall from January to February 2022. Some stakeholders are expecting that this situation will carry on until 2023. The situation was expected to improve in the fourth quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year. However, after that, the river can revert back to the situation it was in 2021. This becomes a problem because soy and corn are harvested during those times.
With this, the environmental situation in Argentina is something to consider. The occurrence of heatwaves can lead to discomfort, especially for those accustomed to cooler climates. This also has negative implications for the economy as it heavily relies on crops that are sensitive to changes in climate, water levels, and soil quality.