Record Brazil heat pressures crops, energy prices – Northeast is in worst drought in at least 50 years, hundreds of thousands of cattle have diedPosted by Jim at Tuesday, February 11, 2014
1 February 2014 (World Bulletin) – Even by Brazilian standards - man, it's hot.
January was the hottest month on record in parts of Brazil including its biggest city, São Paulo. The heat, plus a severe drought, has kindled fears of water shortages, crop damage and higher electricity bills that could drag down the economy during an election year for President Dilma Rousseff.
The scorching conditions don't constitute a crisis quite yet, officials say. Weather has been mostly normal in other regions including Brazil's soy belt, where a record crop is still expected. Summer rains could return in February and March to refill reservoirs, as they did last year when similar concerns over a possible energy crisis proved to be overhyped.
Still, the risks are considerable because Brazil's economy is so fragile at the moment. Any disruption to food supplies or power costs would complicate the government's ability to meet the center of its 2014 inflation target of 4.5 percent, and the region's orange and coffee crops are already showing signs of stress, farmers say.
São Paulo's average maximum daily temperature in January through Friday was 31.9 degrees Celsius (89.4 degrees Fahrenheit), a degree hotter than the previous January record and surpassing February 1984 as the city's hottest month ever, according to INMET, Brazil's national meteorological institute.
Meanwhile, a high pressure system has blocked normal tropical afternoon rains during what is usually the year's wettest month. São Paulo's main reservoir is now at less than a quarter of its capacity, a 10-year low.
Meteorologists aren't hopeful for a change anytime soon.
"This is the hottest, driest January we've ever had … and there isn't much hope for this heat to stop in the next two weeks," said Celso Oliveira, meteorologist for Somar weather service. […]
Other regions of Brazil are also suffering from extreme weather. The impoverished, less populated northeast is in its worst drought in at least 50 years, according to Funceme, the state meteorological agency in Ceará state. Hundreds of thousands of cattle have died from the dry conditions, local officials say.
"I have never seen a drought like this. Everything has dried up," said 85-year-old Ulisses de Sousa Ferraz, a farmer in Pernambuco state who said he has lost 50 cows. […]
The leading water company in São Paulo, a metropolitan area of about 20 million people, is already running TV and radio ads asking customers to limit water use by not cleaning sidewalks with hoses, for example. Reports of isolated water shortages in poorer areas have also surfaced in local media.
"São Paulo has a significant risk of water rationing," Somar's Oliveira said. [more]