Almost 40C temperatures in South American winter heatwave shocks scientists

A man walking through Buenos Aires in the middle of winter. Credit: AP

Temperatures of 39C across Europe during the July heatwave led to dire warnings from climate change scientists, but in the past week, a similar heatwave has been recorded in the southern hemisphere - where it is the middle of winter.

In Chile, Argentina and Uruguay - where August is the equivalent to February - temperatures have been move than 10 degrees above average, with sweltering heat replacing the usually mild winter.

Weather historian Maximiliano Herrera said: "South America is living one of the extreme events the world has ever seen."

Posting on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, he said: "Much more than what Southern Europe just had in mid-summer at the same elevation: This event is rewriting all climatic books."On Tuesday, the mountain town of Vicuna in central Chile hit 38.7C and the capital Santiago recorded 24C.

In the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, the temperature exceeded 30C on Tuesday, making it the highest 1 August temperature since record-keeping began.

The average August temperature in Buenos Aires is 13.5C.

The highest temperature recorded during the heatwave was in the Chilean Andes at 38.9C.

"Having temperatures of 37 degrees in the middle of southern winter is extraordinary," said Raul Cordero, a climatologist at the University of Santiago.

"It is a temperature anomaly of almost 15 degrees above typical values ​​and unfortunately it is not a local problem, it is a global problem."

Jacques said that while some of the temperature increase is expected during this time of the year due to atmospheric circulation, these extreme temperatures have been exacerbated by El Nino and an increasingly warming planet.

He said it was a "robust sign of warming" about the dangers of climate change.

Children cooling off during the winter heatwave. Credit: AP

Meteorologists have pointed to several reasons for the heatwave including climate change.

They have also noted the naturally occurring El Nino weather pattern that causes warmer than usual weather over much of the world began this year.

The winter season has been eventful in Chile, with the most intense rainstorms in decades leaving thousands homeless, isolated towns and blocked roads in the south-central area of the country.

There is also a zone of high pressure over the centre of the continent which meteorologists have called a "heat dome" dominating the weather.

Unusual high temperatures in the middle of winter could pose a threat in the future impacting glaciers and snow in the mountains, both of which help provide water to Chile's water supply.

According to the latest forecasts, high temperatures in the north and centre of the country will last all week.

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