This week, just a couple of hours apart, the country has witnessed a chain of climatic events: storm surges, waterspouts and heat waves. Although they do not have a direct relationship between them, they do have a common responsible: the climate change.
Wednesday they started swells in the central zone, with waves of more than eight meters, a phenomenon that has spread to a large part of the Chilean coastline. That same Wednesday, in the south of the country, a waterspout washed away more than 50 trees, it started a fire and injured people. Finally, the absence of the La Niña phenomenon It has generated a hot June in Santiago, with temperatures above 20 ° C and low rainfall. This Saturday they expect up to 25 ° C in Santiago.
Roberto Rondanelli, researcher at the Climate and Resilience Science Center (CR) 2 and academic from the Department of Geophysics FCFM of the University of Chile, explains that in any normal winter there are many striking events of atmospheric and oceanic weather that are part of the normality of the Chilean climate. “However, the swells are anomalous and are produced by the effect of the formation of a cyclone completely anomalous that was generated offshore, in the Pacific Ocean ”.
Raúl Cordero, climatologist of the University of Santiago, points out that unfortunately climate change makes extreme events more frequent and intense. “Among these are not only heat waves or waterspouts, but also droughts and extreme storms on the high seas whose winds cause the tidal waves ”.
It is a situation that is going to continue to get worse as time goes on. “The frequency of swells for example, has doubled in the last two decades. The frequency and intensity with which the swells occur, added to the rise in sea level as a result of the glacial melt, will cause more and more frequent floods on our coasts and the accelerated erosion of our beaches ”, warns Cordero.
Increase alert level
Rondanelli points out that “it is to be expected that if this climatic situation is due to a persistent large-scale pattern (as seems to be the case), many of these demonstrations continue occurring in the immediate future ”.
In addition to the swells, “the drought, heat waves, wildfires, severe storms, flash floods, … all these extreme events continue their frequency and intensity significantly in the next decades until we stop climate change ”, states the Usach climatologist.
During this week, three possible tornadoes (waterspouts) were registered on the same day in Ancud, Mehuín and Toltén Viejo. “These phenomena turned out to be highly destructive and they left injuries in the case of Toltén Viejo. We are recently understanding the existence of a ‘tornado season’ in southern Chile, with a greater frequency when observing these phenomena between mid-May and mid-June, as recently occurred with the tornadoes of May 30 and May 31, 2019, and the ones we recently observed, ”says Rondanelli.
“This gives an opportunity to increase the level of alert to these storms during this time of year in which they seem to repeat frequently,” adds the academic from the University of Chile.
Lamb argues that climate change is a direct threat, “Not only for the lives of many people, but for critical infrastructure (we use it to supply ourselves with water, food and energy). This threat manifests itself through extreme events. A drought can leave us without crops, a storm can leave us without electricity, a flood can leave us without bridges, a drive can leave us without ports ”.
The problem is that this risk is increasing and will continue to increase at least until the middle of the century. “The only way to ensure that the situation, and the risks derived from extreme events, stop worsening is by completely and definitively abandoning the use of fossil fuels, that is, those fuels (such as diesel, paraffin, coal and benzine) that we currently use at home and in industry to energize ourselves. We must adopt renewable energy and we must do it soon, ”says Cordero.