Brazil’s cities getting hotter and hotter

. Jan 08, 2020
temperatures brazil is getting hotter and hotter Photo: Fernando Frazão/ABr

The South of Brazil is traditionally known for being the “least tropical” part of the country. With more amenable temperatures and even some sporadic snow in winter, it was less common to see the scorching heat felt in other parts of Brazil. One exception, however, was the city of Porto Alegre—the largest urban center of the region—which was notorious for having hot summers.

</p> <p>In the 1980s, middle-class inhabitants of Porto Alegre used to flee to the beach at the end of the year to <em>escape</em> the hot weather. Back then, the city&#8217;s average temperatures in December—the height of Brazil&#8217;s summer—reached 25 degrees celsius. In 2019, however, average temperatures were over 32°C.</p> <p>Even back in the 25°C days, the <em>porto-alegrenses</em> were fond of nicknaming the city &#8220;Forno Alegre,&#8221; with <em>forno</em> being the Portuguese word for &#8220;oven.&#8221; The moniker caught on to such an extent that the municipal government has even <a href="">begun using the term</a> while warning about extreme heat in the city.</p> <p>However, for the last 110 years, the city&#8217;s oven has never been turned up as high as it was in December 2019. On the last day of the year, thermometers hit 40.3°C.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/1203720"></div><script src=""></script> <p>This phenomenon is by no means restricted to &#8220;Forno&#8221; Alegre.&nbsp;</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/1196990"></div><script src=""></script> <h2>Brazil turning up the heat</h2> <p>Upon analyzing average temperatures in all of Brazil&#8217;s state capitals, we can see that the 2010s came with <a href="">hotter Decembers than average</a>. Each column in the chart below denotes average December temperatures in a single year, between 1961 and 2019. Blue denotes below-average temperatures, while red is for hotter months. White spots represent years in which no weather data was collected in the city in question, which was common during Brazil&#8217;s crises in the 1980s.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-heatmap" data-src="visualisation/3627739"><script src=""></script></div> <p>In São Paulo, average maximum temperatures in December were less dire than in 2018, but the most populous city in South America is still four degrees hotter than its coldest December, back in the 1960s—even with last year&#8217;s return of traditional heavy midsummer rainfall.</p> <p>A look at the nationwide chart throws up another worthwhile talking point: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil&#8217;s popular tourist destination and one of the biggest cities in the country, hasn&#8217;t reported any weather data to officials for the last three years. A rising trend in temperatures was witnessed in years prior, but there is no reliable data to quantify how this has progressed since 2016. How much of this lack of reporting is due to the overall disarray of the city and state government remains to be seen.

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Marcelo Soares

Marcelo Soares is a Brazilian journalist specializing in data journalism and reader engagement.

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