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A woman walks on a street in São Paulo: several heat waves before summer has even begun

Photo: Sebastiao Moreira / EPA

Even before the start of summer in the southern hemisphere, large parts of Brazil are suffering from a severe heat wave. This is expected to peak between Thursday and Friday. In the metropolis of Rio de Janeiro, the perceived temperature rose to 58.5 degrees on Tuesday, as the state news agency Agencia Brasil reported.

The perceived temperature describes a person's perception of temperature, which depends not only on the actual air temperature, but also on humidity and the wind.

In other regions, especially in the centre and south of the country, temperatures of well over 40 degrees were also measured. Already on Wednesday, the Brazilians groaned under high temperatures, the next few days are unlikely to be any different.

The National Meteorological Institute classified the situation in 15 states and the federal district around the capital Brasília as very dangerous. There is a risk of dehydration, headaches, nausea and circulatory problems.

Energy consumption has risen to a record level in Brazil, according to the national grid operator. In 18 cities in the state of Rio de Janeiro, the power has failed. In the state of Minas Gerais, about 500 dead fish were found in a lagoon in the capital within three days. The deaths were related to the effects of rising temperatures, the newspaper »Folha de São Paulo« reported, citing the city administration.

But it is not only the south and centre of the country that are currently suffering from the severe heat and drought. The Amazon is experiencing the worst drought since records began 120 years ago. The levels of some of the most important rivers had recently fallen at an unprecedented rate. The effects are serious with consequences for the population along the rivers, the regional economy as well as the flora and fauna.

According to experts, the current heat wave is related to the weather phenomenon El Niño and global warming. "A heat wave in spring is not unusual. But in the past few months, there have already been four heat waves without us reaching the end of the season. Global warming has made the waves more intense and more frequent," climatologist José Marengo of the Cemaden research institute told the news portal G1.

It is undeniable that temperatures are getting higher and higher almost everywhere on Earth, said Ricardo de Camargo, a meteorologist at the Institute of the University of São Paulo, according to Agencia Brasil. According to data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), October 2023 was the warmest in 125,000 years worldwide. Forecasts suggest that "extreme events will occur more frequently, more ordinarily, and with greater severity," Camargo said.

These are precisely the topics that will be discussed at the next World Climate Conference COP28 in the Emirati metropolis of Dubai at the end of November. Every year, representatives of around 200 countries discuss at the UN conference how the internationally agreed 1.5-degree target can still be achieved and how the worst consequences of the climate crisis can be averted. However, according to an analysis by the United Nations, the world is far from stopping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius with the climate protection plans currently presented by states.