People in Hermosillo are used to the heat: Enduring scorching temperatures is a local point of pride in this northwestern Mexican city known for its lightning weather and nicknamed the “city of the sun.”
But on a recent Sunday in June, temperatures reached a record when thermometers registered 49.5 degrees Celsius, or 121 Fahrenheit.
“It was like fireballs were being thrown at me,” said Isabel Rodríguez, a gas station attendant on the road to Hermosillo. At a local fountain in the city, a father used his hat to pour water over his daughter as relief from the heat.
Scorching temperatures also swept the rest of the country.
June tends to be a rainy month in Mexico, but this year, El Niño, the global weather pattern often linked to intense heat, has led to warmer, less rainy days. With temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, 23 Mexican states were under a weather watchs last month. More than 110 people have died from heat-related causes this season.
“It is very atypical, and it is due to an anticyclone,” said Dr. Christian Domínguez Sarmiento, a researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Change at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
This phenomenon, which creates air circulation in a clockwise direction, prevents the formation of clouds and, added Dr. Domínguez Sarmiento, “allows radiation to hit directly, because the sky is completely clear and thus the temperatures on the surface rise.”
The Madden-Julian Oscillation, a set of thunderstorms that regularly travel the Equator, was also at play, further preventing the formation of clouds, explained Dr. Domínguez Sarmiento.
The researcher added that land use also contributed to the heightened sensation of the heat: “If we had a lot more forest cover,” she said, referring to urban sprawl, “we might feel lower temperatures, but we’re really surrounded of asphalt and that. also contributes to that uncomfortable feeling.”
In Hermosillo, a city of about 936,000 people, that feeling translated into burning eyes, throbbing heads and dripping sweat.
“Even with an umbrella,” said Luis Grande, a lone student walking on Sonora University’s campus, “I felt like my eyes were going to explode from the heat.”
And yet, in Hermosillo, long used to scorching temperatures, life seemed to go on: Schools remained open and women walked children to class; soccer games were still scheduled to be played at noon.
“It hit you like it was cooking your skin,” María Ángeles López, a homemaker, said of the heat. She sat at Madero Park in downtown Hermosillo while her daughter, Aitana, played under a sprinkler.
“I felt desperate because of how unpleasant it felt,” she said, adding that her family owned three air conditioners at home, but that she tried to turn them off because electricity bills tended to increase during the warmer months.
Power outages have been reported throughout Mexico in recent weeks, a result of the high temperatures.
Half of all small grocery stores in the country were affected by outages and about 15 percent of those businesses lost refrigerated products, the National Alliance of Small Grocers said. said local media.
In Mexico City, the capital, there was a shortage of ice and some convenience stores rationed ice sales.
Authorities in Hermosillo distributed water to homeless people and advised the population to wear hats and loose clothing, cook less and avoid sun exposure. Some families sought solace in the waters of a nearby river, an hour’s drive from Hermosillo.
In Paseo El Molinito, a local entertainment spot outside the city, children splashed and parents sipped beer. A lazy hammock swayed to the faint rustling of leaves, while the music of an accordion blared from a loudspeaker. A man in charge of collecting entrance fees to the site planned to stay open beyond the usual time.
Smoke from several small forest fires rose along the road leading from Hermosillo to El Molinito, making an unbearable day even more unpleasant. The Mexican state of Sonora, where Hermosillo is located, registered 89 forest fires so far in 2023the highest number in more than two decades, according to the National Forestry Commission.
People in the rural areas of Sonora start work at 4 in the morning to avoid the sweltering heat and take a break at noon. They break until 4pm when weather conditions are manageable again.
And it’s not just people who can’t stand the heat. Some electronic devices will shut down if they are exposed to high temperatures for too long.
“We still have July, August and September before,” said Refugio Estrada, who lives outside Hermosillo. People know that the canícula, the dog days, are not here yet.