‘Heat Dome’ Entering Texas Leaving Climate Shocks Across Central America – deceleration.news

Environmental justice news and analysis for San Antonio and the the South Texas bioregion.
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Greg Harman & Ceiba Ili
This week, extreme heat warnings are going off across Texas again. The blazing temperatures—exacerbated by high humidity and bad air quality—are part of a stalled “heat dome” that has been settled atop much of Mexico and Central America since early May.
On Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued heat warnings and extreme heat advisories for communities across much of Central and South Texas as the heat index ranged from around 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. With the ridge of high pressure over Mexico expanding northward this week, life-threatening heat is returning to the state, after an early appearance over Memorial Day weekend, an event itself made at least five times more likely due to industrially driven global warming.
The inputs behind this week’s extreme heat remain much the same, according to researchers at Climate Central, a nonprofit communications hub staffed by climate scientists and meteorologists dedicated to researching the changing climate and how it impacts people’s lives.
“Analysis of this heat using the Climate Shift Index shows us that human-caused climate change has made these hot temperatures three to more than five times more likely,” said Lauren Casey, a Climate Central meteorologist.
“Or put more simply, without the addition of heat-trapping greenhouse gasses to our atmosphere, these conditions would be significantly less likely to occur.”
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The Climate Shift Index utilizes data from 22 climate models and calculates the frequency of the temperatures in the modeled climates (with and without the influence of climate change) as well the frequency of daily temperatures for the past 30 years.
With weeks yet to go before the official start of summer, San Antonio logged the highest heat index ever recorded in the city (117F) on Tuesday. The previous record was set just last year. In New Braunfels, just to the north, the heat index reached 123F.
Heat index is sometimes referred to by meteorologists as the “feels like” temperature. It is a product of both heat and humidity, the latter of which is accelerating in Texas even faster than average temperatures, which are also rising. Extreme caution is urged anytime the heat index reaches 90 degrees or above. The National Weather Service launched a new warning system this year that states that everyone without artificial cooling during periods of Extreme Risk, such as much of South Texas entered again this week, to:
Extreme heat risk signifies rare, multi-day periods of extremely high heat that is “very dangerous to anyone without proper hydration or adequate cooling.” All people exposed to this heat are considered at risk and conditions can turn deadly for anyone without artificial cooling. Fans are no longer effective once the heat index climbs into the upper 90s and can actually exacerbate heat-illness symptoms
Deceleration interviewed several residents living in Central America to understand what the last several months have been like.
“Our country is experiencing a particularly challenging year due to the heat wave,” Sergio Garcia of Belize told Deceleration.
“In my town, we’ve had only about four or five instances of rain this year. The intense heat is causing difficulties for children at school, who are now drinking more water than ever to stay hydrated and avoid health problems.”
Most of Mexico and Central America are still gripped by drought. Across Mexico, hundreds of wildfires have been burned over more than 250,000 acres, prompting a rash of quality alerts across Texas and the Southern United States. Extreme temperatures that are also hitting the world’s oceans, including the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, have contributed to particulate formation.
This year’s heat is an extension of the unprecedented heat and drought and storms of 2023, which is considered the hottest year on Earth in at least 120,000 years.
Central American nations in particular rank among those hit the hardest in 2023 by global warming’s influence, according to a recent report by Climate Central, Red Cross-Red Crescent Climate Centre, and World Weather Attribution. 
The report chronicling the acceleration of extreme heat worldwide opens with this acknowledgement about the extreme heat gripping the planet: 
“This is not a surprise or an accident — the causes are well known and the impacts devastating. The continuous burning of coal, oil and gas has released enough greenhouse gasses to warm the planet by 1.2C since pre-industrial times. Year after year, human-induced climate change manifests through more intense and frequent extreme weather events, with heat waves being the most dramatically affected.”
The report evaluates heatwaves around the world and ranks them according to degree of influence by anthropogenic—or human-caused—global warming. Researchers found that global warming being driven by dirty energy and deforestation exposed nearly 80 percent of the people on the planet to at least 31 days of extreme heat.
Residents in parts of Latin America were exposed to heat far outside normal local averages for nearly half of the year. In Suriname and Ecuador, for instance, residents suffered through nearly 160 days of heat that would not have occurred but for global warming. 
The authors found many heatwaves would almost certainly not have happened at all but for the burning of fossil fuels by establishing probability ratios for each heat event studied.
A March 2024 heatwave that smothered the nations of Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, and Honduras was made 13 times more likely by global warming, an example of some of the highest probability ratios on the planet this year.
That heat has been unavoidable, even in the highlands of Guatemala, which typically offer a more temperate climate, said José Luis Guillermo Méndez. 
“Temperatures never seen before have been recorded in these cold regions,” said Guillermo. “It is interesting, worrying, and sad to experience.”
Jeff Higgins of Costa Rica said more temperate areas of that nation have also offered little protection.
“The temps have been several degrees higher than in previous years, even here in the foothills to the mountains. Plus, the El Niño effect has caused the rains to be delayed so many farmers, at least where I am, aren’t risking putting seeds in the ground until the rains prove they’ll begin.”
A study of conditions across Latin America and the Caribbean released last month by the World Meteorological Association also highlights global warming impacts during 2023 while detailing hardships experienced across the region. “Health, food access, economies and ecosystems suffered,” the report opens. 
Fueled by high ocean heat, the strongest hurricane ever to hit land in the eastern Pacific Basin plowed into Acapulco, Mexico, leaving extreme devastation in its wake.
In Venezuela, the last glacier of that nation melted away.
Extreme drought resulted in unprecedented traffic reductions in the Panama Canal and interrupted access to water and power by Indigenous and Afro-Panamanian residents.
Low rainfall and high heat impacted the growing of staple grains, the WMA report found, and agricultural seasons in Guatemala were impacted. Small-scale growers across El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua saw their incomes reduced by “at least” 25 percent.
Against this backdrop, President Joe Biden has taken executive action to stop taking asylum requests any time the average daily number of requests reaches 2,500 at official ports of entry. Meanwhile, it’s been estimated that as many as 1.7M people were forced from their homes by weather-related disasters across Latin America in 2021 alone and that—under pessimistic climate scenarios—there may be 17M climate migrants in Latin America by 2050, according to the Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Gerardo Cantanero of Honduras described how the heat and drought has put additional pressures on rural areas of Honduras, as city residents flee in search of relief. 
“When the heat has been intense, there have been massive mobilizations of people from the city to our villages to enjoy the rivers and even the beach,” Cantanero said.
“This is why it is important to organize community boards to protect our community resources, each community is responsible for safeguarding its human and natural resources.”
Local community organizing is critical to navigating extreme heat across the Americas. But as a global phenomenon driven by the world’s largest polluters, the impacts of global warming are largely a product of a handful of the world’s most polluting economies—with the United States, China, Russia, and Brazil far out front.
A detailed analysis by Carbon Brief, meanwhile, has found that the reelection of Donald Trump in November could tank global climate efforts and erase all the gains from rising investments in lower-carbon energy sources over the last five years. Project 2025 spells out the Republican agenda for a return to the White House, including withdrawing from every international environmental treaty while dramatically scaling back the work of the U.S. Environmental Protection Action.
Increasingly, those within the climate movement have come to recognize the importance of empowering and following Indigenous leadership in both transitioning to cleaner energy sources while reversing attacks on ecosystems around the world that have historically served as “sinks” to hold the world’s excess carbon.
“The indigenous people have always made that call, which is to protect the forests and rivers,” said Cantanero. “That is the only asset we have left and it must be protected at all costs.”
Greg Harman is the founder and editor of Deceleration.
Ceiba Ili is a cultural educator and musician from Honduras who serves as Deceleration’s calendar editor.
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Deceleration is an online journal responding to the roots of our shared ecological, political, and cultural crises—journalistically, academically, and creatively.
Rooted in the greater South Texas bioregion, Deceleration is inspired by intellectual and political movements around the world for degrowth, buen vivir, the right to the city, and the rights of nature/mother earth.
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