The Unbelievable Day

By | July 12, 2007

 

 

 

That last time the Argentineans saw their capital covered in white the world was still fighting the First Great War, the former Russian czar was executed by revolutionaries, the Spanish Influenza started to attack and Woodrow Wilson was in office as the 28th president of the United States of America and the planet was leaving the very cold period of the Little Ice Age.

It was July 9th 2007. Buenos Aires got covered by snow. The Argentinean capital was white again after nearly a century. No superpowers are in conflict, terrorism is the new menace, AIDS and bird flu are the health concerns, George W. Bush is in office as the 43rd president of the United States of America and the planet is warming in a fever of studies pointing to a global catastrophe due to human-induced greenhouse effect.

"Despite all my years, this is the first time I've ever seen snow in Buenos Aires", 82-year-old Juana Benitez was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency. That was the overall feeling. Thousands of Argentines cheered in the streets of Buenos Aires as the capital saw the first of its kind since 1918.

Local television stations showed people celebrating, dancing and taking photos of the flakes falling over the Nueve de Julio Avenue. Early in the morning, snow already felt in some districts of the metropolitan area and flurries were sparse near Downtown. During the afternoon hours the drizzle converted to freezing rain and then to snow. The initial report of snow came from the Ezeiza International Airport, in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, but minutes later it was also snowing in the densely populated areas of Central Buenos Aires. Wet snow fell for eight hours in the Argentine capital and at sometimes it was heavy.

Late in the afternoon snow became heavier and several districts of Buenos Aires were already accumulating snow in the parks and over parked cars.

 

Another blast of heavy snow affected the city around 8 PM when the temperature was zero degrees Celsius in Ezeiza and just one degree in the Downtown area. The snow rapidly accumulated over cars and the grass. Scene of snowmen usually seen in the ski resorts of the Patagonia region were suddenly an attraction in the urban area of the largest Argentine city.

 

Argentina's National Weather Service (Servicio Meteorologico Nacional) confirmed it was the first major snow in Buenos Aires since June 22, 1918, though sleet or freezing rain have been periodically reported in decades since. The Servicio Meteorologico Nacional decided not to issue any snow forecast. The government agency director told the media snow was so rare that the forecasters decided not to issue a warning, despite the indication of the forecast models and the warnings from the University of Buenos Aires’ Weather Service, MetSul Meteorologia in Brazil and AccuWeather’s Jim Andrews in the United States. "This is the kind of weather phenomenon that comes along every 100 years," forecaster Hector Ciappesoni told La Nacion newspaper. "It is very difficult to predict". It was not a difficult event to predict, but an event difficult to believe until the flakes started to whiten the city.

The frigid weather was not confined to Buenos Aires. It snowed for the first time in 35 years in some cities of the northern Buenos Aires Province. It snowed for the first time in history in some towns of the Santa Fe Province. Southern Santa Fe Province  experienced the snowiest day since 1973. Cordoba City the heaviest snowfall since 1975. Mendoza went trough he heaviest snowstorm in decades. Temperature fell to minus 19 degrees Celsius in Patagonia and near all-time record in Bariloche (most famous ski resort in South America). Windchill in Bariloche was record: -minus 22 degrees. Low temperature in Bahia Blanca, Southern Buenos Aires province, fell to outstanding 9 below zero Celsius. Snow also fell in northern Provinces and in Bolivia isolated the capital La Paz from the rest of the country.

The snow event followed a bitterly cold month of May that saw subfreezing temperatures, the coldest in 40 years in Buenos Aires. That cold wave contributed to an energy crisis and dozens of deaths. This 2007 May figured among the coldest in recent decades also in Uruguay and Southern Brazil (GISS global temperature anomaly map for May).

 

The huge city of Buenos Aires got warmer in recent decades. Urbanization was dramatic and the temperature followed the incredible expansion of the city along the 20th century. Nearby towns with rural stations or near the sea showed little or no warming and some presented even a cooling trend since the 80’s.

The day Buenos Aires saw snow after nearly a century in the global warming era will be remembered for generations. As 1918 was remembered in the beginning of the 21st century. It will be remembered as the unbelievable day. The day some said it was impossible, but Nature proved differently.

 

*************

News wire stories

Argentina cold snap causes energy woes

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070601/ap_on_bi_ge/argentina_energy_woes_1

By BILL CORMIER, Associated Press Writer

Fri Jun 1, 12:48 AM ET

A cold snap in Argentina led to electricity and natural gas shortages this week, idling factories and taxis and causing sporadic blackouts in the capital.

Beset by the coldest May since 1962, millions of residents fired up space heaters, straining Buenos Aires' electrical grid for three nights and forcing authorities to slash power supply nationwide and briefly cut domestic natural gas provisions and exports to Chile.

Grumbling taxi drivers waited for hours in lines stretching several blocks to fill up their black-and-yellow cabs with scarce compressed natural gas. Some protested by tossing garbage into the streets during rush hour Thursday, causing traffic jams.

"I went all over town to 15 service stations and couldn't find compressed gas anywhere," said Ernesto Gorena, whose taxi was among some 70 percent of the city's natural gas-powered fleet that was temporarily idled.

Temperatures hit the freezing point or dipped below for three successive nights in the capital, which has not seen snow in years. Such cold is rare for the southern-hemisphere autumn in Buenos Aires, which normally sees temperatures in the 40s and 50s Fahrenheit or higher this time of year.

Critics said the three-day blast of Antarctic air — which is also blamed for 23 deaths from exposure as well as fires from faulty heaters — has brought to light weaknesses in the nation's plan for meeting rising energy demand.

Political analyst Rosendo Fraga said Argentina's energy woes date to a 2002 economic crisis, when regulators froze rates for home utility bills just after the peso devalued more than 70 percent against the dollar. Since then, far less revenue has been available for upgrading and building plants and other infrastructure.

"A lack of investment in the energy system, in great part generated by the freeze on utility rates, has created a situation which soon or later could explode," Fraga said.

Many factories went idle this week when distributors shut off or reduced gas supplies to give priority to homes. Government regulators also ordered an 800-megawatt electricity cut nationwide for four hours Wednesday night, which led to sporadic blackouts in the capital.

At a shampoo and detergent factory in suburban Buenos Aires, executive Alberto Rodriguez said workers had to race to meet production goals after one outage.

"The lights went out for several hours," Rodriguez said. "To a greater or smaller extent, we are all suffering from a lack of energy and gas."

On Thursday, officials said there was enough energy to meet demand as temperatures warmed, and they defended their response to the cold snap.

"The energy system during the days of extremely low temperatures responded well," said Julio De Vido, the nation's top energy planner. He called the cold an "extraordinary climate event unseen here in 45 years."

He said Argentina imported energy from Brazil and Uruguay to meet surging demand, and compressed gas supplies had been restored to service stations.

The shortages also had a ripple effect in neighboring Chile, where authorities scrambled to provide energy after Argentina slashed natural gas exports. De Vido confirmed that Argentina resumed shipments to Chile on Wednesday.

Energy analyst Gerardo Rabinovich said more problems could be on the way in the next two years before a series of new gas-fired generating plants commissioned by the Argentine government are up and running.

"Cold weather always produces energy usage peaks and problems," Rabinovich said, adding that Argentina "sneezed" when the freezing temperatures hit. "As in medicine, the fever doesn't just happen on its own; it happens as a result of some underlying disease."

**************

Buenos Aires sees rare snowfall

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6286484.stm

Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, has seen snow for the first time in 89 years, as a cold snap continues to grip several South American nations.

Temperatures plunged to -22C (-8F) in parts of Argentina's province of Rio Negro, while snow fell on Buenos Aires for several hours on Monday.

Two deaths from exposure were reported in Argentina and one in Chile.

In Bolivia, heavy snowfall blocked the nation's main motorway and forced the closure of several airports.

In Argentina, several provinces in the Andes have been placed under a storm alert, according to the national weather centre.

But thousands of people cheered in the streets of Buenos Aires at the sight of the capital's first snowfall since 1918.

"Despite all my years, this is the first time I've ever seen snow in Buenos Aires," 82-year-old Juana Benitez was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

Energy strain

In Chile, temperatures dropped to -18C (0F) in parts of Araucania region in the south.

Meteorologists predict that the cold snap will last for several more days.

Bitterly cold weather in May caused some 20 deaths and forced the Argentine authorities to ration supplies as the country's energy system came under strain.

Monday's snowstorm struck on a national holiday in Argentina. The authorities are watching the demands on the power grid as the country gets back to work on Tuesday.

However, ministers have already appealed to consumers to save energy where they can.

Correspondents say although Argentina's economy has been growing strongly in recent years, there has not been sufficient investment in infrastructure.

Argentine meteorologists are predicting more cold and even freezing weather over the next few days.

align=”center”> Robert Ferguson, President

align=”center”> bferguson@sppinstitute.org

align=”center”> 209 Pennsylvania Ave., SE

align=”center”> Suite 299

align=”center”>  Washington, D.C 20003

align=”center”> www.scienceandpublicpolicy.org  (202) 288-5699