Almost unprecedented warmth is affecting both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Parts of Chile and Argentina have experienced extreme heat, even though South America is in the middle of winter.

In Vicuna, Chile, temperatures reached nearly record-breaking levels of 38 C (101 F). The average high for Vicuna in August is only 18 C (64 F). In the national capital of Santiago, the thermometer reached 24 C (75 F), compared to an average high of only 16–17 C (61–63 F).

In neighboring Argentina, Buenos Aires recorded its hottest August 1 in 117 years. August 1 was the first time in almost a decade that temperatures in Buenos Aires surpassed 30 C (86 F) in winter.

These rising temperatures pose a threat to the snowpack in the Andes Mountains, which many Chilean farms and cities rely on during the dry summer months. A stretch of abnormally warm winters contributed to central Chile’s Penuelas reservoir going dry in 2022.

Additionally, Argentina is facing a surplus of natural gas due to decreased heating demands caused by the warm winter.

As Chile tops 100 Fahrenheit, experts are blaming the winter heatwave on climate change and the El Niño weather pattern. Chilean Environment Minister Maisa Rojas, a physicist and climatologist, emphasized the urgent need to stop burning fossil fuels in order to combat warming temperatures.

El Niño is a weather phenomenon characterized by the atypical warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. An El Niño event typically lasts for 9–12 months, and the current El Niño is expected to persist into 2024. When El Niño subsides, temperatures in South America should return closer to normal.