21 | OCT | 2019

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Is this heat normal?
Photo: Yadin Xolalpa/EL UNIVERSAL

Is this heat normal?

Mexico City
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Temperature variations in the last decades can be attributed to multiple factors besides global warming

High temperatures in our country, caused by heat waves, aren't unusual. In fact, temperatures recorded last year were slightly higher than those thus far in 2018.

These variations have taken place in the last decades and can be attributed to multiple factors besides global warming, such as the increasing frequency of phenomena like El Niño and the expansion of urban asphalt. The latter generates what's called the heat island effect because asphalt absorbs more radiation than any other coating, according to Paulina Ordoñez, researcher at the Atmospheric Sciences Center of the UNAM.

According to a UNAM bulletin, historical records show high temperatures during Spring are normal, mainly during the months of April and May.

“In fact, heat waves are defined based on 'normal' temperature ranges for every region of the country. Thus we can talk about an average temperature per state and a maximum average temperature per state, and when the latter is surpassed for several days, then we have a heat wave,” explained Ordoñez.

Elda Luyando, also a researcher at the Atmospheric Sciences Center of the UNAM, details that the heat island effect causes temperatures to increase within a city – particularly at night – due to the number of buildings in the area.

This is because the heat in buildings disperses differently and buildings retain warmth and thus, at night, we feel more heat within hour homes contrary to what happens when we go outside and it's cooler, detailed Luyando.

“Thermal sensations can be measured through bioclimatic indexes, which take into account variables such as temperature, humidity, wind speed, wall radiation, among others; this provides a more accurate measurement,” states the researcher.

On the impact of high temperatures in human health, Ordoñez mentions extreme temperatures affect an entire population, mainly senior citizens and children, who may suffer easily from dehydration, breathing problems, and exhaustion.

Both researchers agree the lack of clouds increases the possibility of solar radiation, thus they recommend the use of sunscreen lotions and use of sunglasses and hats.


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