SANTIAGO – A study from Universidad de Talca forecasts several heat waves starting December 2019. It is expected that the country will experience abnormal levels of heat and humidity during this and the following months, with few exceptions throughout the territory. This summer in Chile could be one of the hottest summers in over a century.
According to Universidad de Talca agroclimatologist and investigator Patricio González Colville, Chile might be at the threshold of one of its hottest summers since the country started keeping formal records of temperature.
According to González’s investigation, summarized in a Universidad de Talca article, we should expect at least three heat waves per month (from December 2019 to March 2020), with temperature peaks of at least 40°C (104ºF).
“This summer in Chile could be the hottest season in 119 years, when it comes to peak temperatures and prolonged heat waves in central Chile,” he says.
Historical Heat Waves
The agroclimatologist says that each of these heat waves could last up to six days, with temperatures equal to or greater than 33°C (91.4ºF); in past years, heat waves would normally last about three days, González told La Nación. These longer heat waves have not been seen since the beginning of the 20th century, he added: “In the 20th century, extreme heat periods lasted an average of 6 days … during summer. In the 21st century, we can expect up to 11-days streaks.”
For the Maule Region, January 2017 was the hottest summer in the registry, “which started around 1900,” says González. That year, there were 21 consecutive days of high temperatures between 34°C and 39°C (93.2ºF and 102.2ºF). Given the current forecast for even higher temperatures and several heat waves, that record could be broken.
Summer in Chile: Not Just Central Regions
González, who works at the Centre of Investigation, Irrigation and Agroclimatology at the University of Talca, investigated heat changes in central Chile, from Valparaíso to Chillán, but this phenomenon is expected to affect the rest of the country, as well.
According to a report by the Meteorological Directorate of Chile, most of the country will experience higher than average temperatures. In the report, it says high temperatures by the coasts of Chile will be caused by a rise in superficial ocean temperatures.
Rengo, Punta Arenas, Porvenir, and Puerto Williams are the only zones where temperatures are not expected to exceed prior peak temperatures.
According to the Universidad de Talca article above, Chile has also been experiencing historical heat waves more frequently in the 21st century. “[During the 20th century], maximum temperatures over 35°C (95ºF) had been reached only four times” in Talca; in 1921 (35°C), 1932 (36°C), 1936 (35°C), and 1957 (35.9°C). But already in the 21st century, Talca has surpassed these heat ranges three times in just 19 years: 2007 (36.5°C), 2016 (37°C), and 2019 (35°C so far). Thus, “in only 20 years, we have experienced three temperature records,” notes the article.
With respect to global trends regarding the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, which is already quantified at 410 parts per million for 2019, it is estimated that the Earth’s temperature will rise to 1.5ºC (2.7ºF), or even 2ºC (3.6ºF) above pre-industrial levels by 2030-2035, the article reports. “This is causing extreme heat events to be more recurrent and risky for human health and agriculture.”
Camila Huecho is a journalism student at Universidad de La Frontera in Temuco, currently interning at Chile Today. As a freelance illustrator and Fellow at the Melton Foundation, she works to bring information and cultures together through communications and art.