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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Third heat wave brings soaring temperatures in Mexico

Prolonged and unprecedented high temperatures in Mexico's capital and elsewhere are disrupting daily activities and access to commodities like water and ice.

MEXICO CITY (CN) — An unprecedented third heat wave began this week in Mexico, where temperatures in the next 15 days are expected to reach the highest ever recorded in the country, according to National Autonomous University of Mexico researchers

The National Meteorological Service announced on May 21 that this third heat wave will cause temperatures of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit in 26 of the 32 Mexican states, and over 113 degrees Fahrenheit in 13 states.

"A heat wave like this one is caused by persistent high pressure in a region between spring and autumn, more specifically due to anticyclonic circulation that is also known as a heat dome because it generates air downward and is associated with high humidity," said Tereza Cavazos, a climate researcher at the Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education.

"Heat waves are days, a couple weeks or a month, but the long-term effect is drought. A heat wave impacts health, water availability, energy use and agriculture," Cavazos said.

Currently, 70% of the country is experiencing drought, 20% of which is deemed "extreme" by the National Water Commission. Mexico's dams are operating at a 23% deficit compared to the national average.

"Last year was a record ocean temperature and a record land temperature across the world. These two factors are clearly associated with climate change. Every year the weather is getting more extreme. One side is drought and the other is flood," Cavazos said.

Local economies and access to commodities are also being affected. In Mexico City, where the population relies on bottled water, the ubiquitous Oxxo chain of convenience stores is limiting the purchase of 5 kilo bags of ice to three bags per person, and drinking water is low.

"We get 120 bags of ice every third day normally. But now the shipments have stopped coming and we're also low on water. It's very slow to arrive," said Jorel Mendoza Gutierrez at an Oxxo franchise that he manages in the historic downtown neighborhood of Mexico City.

"Normally we receive 30 water jugs every third day. The distributors aren't saying when more is coming," Mendoza Gutierrez said.

An ice seller can attest to this shortage.

Juan Carlos Medina Rodríguez, who starts his shift at 2 a.m. selling ice to downtown taco stands and bars, said the heat wave has affected his business.

"A quarter kilo ice block is $3, the price starts lower than that but always goes up in March. Right now there's not enough product for the demand. It's starting to be a problem," Medina Rodríguez said.

Juan Carlos Medina Rodríguez holds up a quarter kilo of ice which, right now, goes for around $3. (William Savinar/Courthouse News)

The heat wave also stresses the country's power grid and puts it on high alert for forest fires.

The National Energy Control Center issued 10 alerts in May due to high energy consumption levels that caused blackouts in 21 states earlier this month.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador described these blackouts as "exceptional and not expected" in a May 8 press conference.

The heat wave and drought are triggering more forest fires than in previous years.

According to the latest information released by the National Forestry Commission of Mexico, there are 121 active forest fires in the country spread over around 230,000 acres of land across 21 states.

In 2022 and 2023, there were a daily average of 20 forest fires. So far this year, there has been an average of 28 per day, and the overall number is expected to be higher than last year. 

The heat isn't limited to just humans. It's so intense in Tabasco that 83 Howler monkeys, named after their impressive vocal range, died of heat stroke.

The heat wave is predicted to end May 31.

Categories / International, Weather

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