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Extreme Heat, Cyclones and Droughts Wreak Havoc in Latin America and the Caribbean Region

World Meteorological Organisation (Wikimedia Commons has media related to W.M.O.) has attributed this rise in temperature to the El Niño effect and long-term changes in the climate, which have led to droughts, forest fires, excessive rainfall and cyclones.

“Unfortunately, 2023 was a year of record climate risks for Latin America and the Caribbean region,” said Celeste Saulo, the UN agency’s Secretary-General.

‘El Niño’ and ‘La Niña’ are the main drivers of the Earth’s climate system, with El Niño bringing with it a warming effect.

The UN agency chief said that during the second half of 2023, several extreme weather events occurred due to El Niño conditions. Rising temperatures and human-caused climate change are increasing the risks and the frequency of extreme weather events.

According to the UN agency, 2023 will see the highest average temperature ever recorded, 0.82°C above the 1991-2020 average, and 1.39°C above the 1961-1990 baseline.

This year has been described as exceptional for Mexico where temperatures reached 45°C in many areas. The highest temperature recorded was 51.4°C on 29 August. This is the highest rate of warming in the region.

Extreme heat waves also affected central South America during August–December, with parts of Brazil reaching temperatures above 41 °C in August.

At the same time, the highest temperatures were recorded in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina in the month of September.

Impact on People and Wildlife

Extreme weather events have claimed many lives, and caused widespread damage to wildlife, ecosystems and the economy.

For example, Category 5 Hurricane Otis in Mexico resulted in huge loss of life and economic losses worth billions of dollars. Severe droughts have affected the flow of rivers in the Panama Canal, which has crippled the movement of international ships.

In addition, exposure to heat waves, exposure to smoke from forest fires, dust storms and air pollution have increased health risks, especially cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

At the same time, at least 150 dolphins have died due to record temperatures in a lake located in the Amazon forest region of Brazil.

The UN meteorological agency has warned that the pace of sea level rise in the region is increasing, posing a serious threat to populations living in coastal areas.

Drought incidence in Latin America and the Caribbean region during January-November 2023.

Drought incidence in Latin America and the Caribbean region during January-November 2023.

Floods wreak havoc in Brazil

Meanwhile, the El Niño effect has brought record rainfall to southern Brazil over the past few weeks, causing unprecedented flooding in the region. This has affected more than 850,000 people and caused massive damage to infrastructure and the economy.

In the Rio Grande do Sul state, local authorities confirmed that 78 people had been killed, 175 others were injured, while 105 were reported missing.

Nearly 19 thousand people have lost their homes and 1 lakh 16 thousand have been displaced. The UN agency says that at present there is no immediate relief in sight for the flood affected area.

The Rio Grande do Sul province has been experiencing heavy rainfall since April 27, with more than 300 mm of rain falling in less than a week. The Bento Gonçalves region in southern Brazil recorded 543.4 mm of rain.

UN Ready to Help

UN Secretary General In a statement issued on Wednesday, Antonio Guterres expressed deep sorrow over the loss of lives and economic losses caused by torrential rains and floods.

He expressed his deep condolences and solidarity with the affected families.

Secretary-General Guterres assured that United Nations support teams on the ground in Brazil remain ready to deliver assistance to those in need during this difficult time.

He pointed out that such disasters highlight the devastating impact of the climate crisis on lives and livelihoods.

In this sequence, the UN chief has reiterated the call for international action to overcome the challenge of climate change.

David Dass
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