It’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere and, much like its northern counterpart six months before, it is baking. Some of the hottest weather in recorded history has scorched Chile, Argentina and Australia in recent weeks.
Among the hot-weather milestones:
- The highest nighttime low (minimum) temperature ever recorded on the planet in January (97.7 degrees in southern Australia)
- The farthest south 90-degree temperature ever measured on Earth in Porvenir, Chile
- Australia’s hottest January in recorded history
- The highest temperature ever recorded at a coastal location in the Southern Hemisphere (121.1 degrees in Port Augusta, Australia)
In recent days, searing heat has torched South America’s Patagonia region.
On Monday, the mercury soared to 101 degrees in Perito Moreno in southern Argentina, its highest temperature ever recorded. The National Meteorological Service of Argentina warned that the weather would “kindle various sources of fire ignition.”
Across the spine of the Andes in neighboring Chile, temperatures above 95 degrees lead to “rapid wildfire spread,” according to Meteochile. A number of blazes and hotspots were visible on satellite Sunday afternoon.
Porvenir, Chile’s, record high of 90.5 degrees on Monday is perhaps the most remarkable, given its southern latitude and proximity to the cooling waters of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.
The city of barely 5,000 people sits at 53.3 degrees south. For perspective, that’s the same distance from the equator as Manchester, England. But while Manchester is landlocked and influenced by the Gulf Stream, Porvenir sits near the water on the Strait of Magellan — where water temperatures rarely exceed the upper 40s Fahrenheit. It’s just 700 miles from Antarctica.
It appears to be the most southerly 90-degree reading ever achieved. “Heat this high on the southern tip of South America is unprecedented,” wrote Guy Walton, a meteorologist from Atlanta specializing in climate records.
Chile and Argentina aren’t the only ones in the Southern Hemisphere experiencing over-the-top warmth.
The city of Adelaide, Australia, soared to a sweltering 115.9 degrees two weeks ago, on Jan. 24. The Adelaide reading toppled records across the continent with the highest temperature ever recorded in a major Australian city.
Port Augusta in southern Australia skyrocketed to its record high of 121.1 degrees. Weather Underground meteorologist Bob Henson reported “it’s the highest temperature ever recorded at a coastal location in the Southern Hemisphere.”
The temperature at Wanaaring in southeast Australia did not fall below 97.9 degrees on Jan. 26, the highest minimum temperature ever recorded in Australia, and also the highest recorded anywhere on Earth during January.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology declared 2019 the “warmest January on record.” It was the warmest or second-warmest January ever recorded in every state and territory. The government agency called the heat waves “unprecedented in their scale and duration.”
As for Chile, the unusual warmth in the “Gateway to the Antarctic” mirrors a similar event in Scandinavia last July, when Norway, Finland and Sweden all topped 90 degrees. Exceptional warmth even approached the Arctic Circle.
The unrelenting heat fits into a pattern of warmer weather making it farther north or south toward the poles, as the globe continues to heat up. In the face of climate change, uncharacteristically hot air masses continue to surge into uncharted territory.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA announced Wednesday that 2018 goes in the books as the fourth-warmest year on record. The top five hottest have all been in the past five years.
And despite the brief cold air attack via the polar vortex into the Midwest, temperatures in the United States are already running several degrees high for 2019. The warming tendency is dominating in most places, and there’s no sign of a letup across either hemisphere.
Correction: The original version of this story misidentified Perito Moreno as “a region normally known for its 19-mile-long glacier.” The village of Perito Moreno is actually located about 285 miles to the north of the referenced glacier.