Autumn Freeze Delivers Chile’s Coldest May in 74 Years

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Image: temperature anomaly of the lower atmosphere for South America. Blues and purples indicate well below average temperature.

“Temperatures broke records along the coast of Chile and in Santiago, the capital, dipping near freezing and making this month the coldest May that the country has seen since 1950, the Chilean meteorological agency reported,” according to the Voice of America (VOA). “An unusual succession of polar air masses has moved over southern swaths of the continent, meteorological experts say, pushing the mercury below zero Celsius in some places.”

The VOA reports that, outside of the country’s ski resorts, high in the Andes, Chileans are unaccustomed to such cold weather and high winds well before the depths of winter.

“The past few days have been one of the longest (cold fronts) ever recorded and one of the earliest ever recorded” before the onset of winter in the Southern Hemisphere,’ Raul Cordero, a climatologist at Santiago University told the Associated Press. “Typically the incursions of cold air from the Antarctic that drive temperatures below zero occur from June onwards, not so much in May.”

Because winter came early, the Chilean government issued winter weather alerts and expanded assistance to the country’s homeless population. Snow even fell in Santiago, where electric power failed for many.

“This week’s cold snap also took parts of Argentina and Paraguay by surprise,” reported VOA. “Energy demand soared across many parts of Argentina. Distributors cut supplies to dozens of gas stations and industries in several provinces to avoid outages in households, the country’s main hydrocarbon company, CECHA, said [on May 16].”

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