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ClimateAi: Ahead of the Curve on Brazil’s Heatwave

Scott Patterson • May 1st, 2024.

Marine Heatwaves

May 1st or May Day historically celebrates the coming of summer in the northern hemisphere. This means the southern hemisphere should be approaching winter, but you wouldn’t know it in southern Brazil.

“A blow torch” is one way to describe southern Brazil over the next two weeks. A heat dome with very hot temperatures and minimal precipitation is developing over the major growing regions of Mato Grosso, São Paulo, and Minas Gerais. While this extreme heat anomaly may have taken most people by surprise, ClimateAi’s forecasts have been predicting the heat dome in this area since August 2023 for January 2024.

CAI Box Plot

The ClimateAi maximum temperature forecast compared to normal
for Brazil over the next six weeks. The horizontal bar in the center of the box is
the predicted temperature with potential for higher or lower temperatures
represented by the top and bottom of the box and the smaller
horizontal bars. This is known as a box and whiskers plot.

The climate shifts in Brazil and their effect on crops have resulted in many headlines in 2024, from cocoa to corn to soybeans. One major crop currently in the middle of its growth cycle in Brazil is sugarcane. Sugarcane generally loves heat and humidity, with 32C at the higher end of the optimal growth spectrum.

Unfortunately, temperatures likely will reach the 37-39C range during the first two weeks of May. Extreme heat leads to disease, pests, and accelerated evaporation of water. All of these factors alter the moderately humid environment sugarcane needs to produce sucrose. Most likely, irrigation will be needed in an area that has been experiencing drier conditions than normal for almost a year, further taxing an already strapped water supply.

Top 4 Reasons for the Heat in Brazil

1.) El Niño

El Niño developed in the latter part of 2023 and ended officially this April. However, the atmosphere will likely continue to feel residual effects of El Niño for several weeks or months. El Niño leads to heat and drought for many equatorial and southern hemisphere regions and provides heavy rain for other locations. In prior Weather Wednesdays, ClimateAi has discussed El Niño’s effect on the southern hemisphere harvest.

2.) IOD (Indian Ocean Dipole)

The IOD reached a strong positive phase from July to December 2023. When the strong +IOD combined with the El Niño, it caused locations in Australia, western Africa and northern South America to experience extreme heat and drought. In January, ClimateAi posted a blog about weather patterns affecting the soybean harvest in Brazil.

A version of the image below was featured in our blog showing an area of high pressure acting as an atmospheric block. This simultaneously prevented clouds from forming across Brazil, but allowed ample moisture to produce heavy rains in northern Argentina.

Marine Heatwaves

A depiction of a weather pattern in South America due to a Marine Heat Wave off the
coast of Argentina. A blocking high pressure (H) forces storm systems to remain
south of Brazil. This leads to clear skies, low soil moisture, and
extreme heat in the major growing regions of southern Brazil.

3.) MJO (Madden-Julian Oscillation)

The MJO is a large area of thunderstorms that forms in the eastern Indian Ocean and over Indonesia. After forming, over the course of the next 30–60 days, the MJO moves around the world. As it moves, the MJO combines with other global weather patterns, often leading to extreme weather events around the globe. These events include a sudden influx of heavy rain and flooding, tropical cyclones, severe thunderstorms with tornadoes, or (on the flipside) extreme dryness and heat.

4.) Marine Heat Waves (MHW)

Marine heat waves are large areas of the ocean where the water temperature is above normal. They are often significantly above normal for an extended period of time. These pools of warmer water can cause certain weather patterns to develop overhead and lead to extreme conditions over land. A constant MHW pool has been sitting off the coast of Argentina for much of 2023-2024.

Monitor Yield Outlook Insights Reveal How Heat is Impacting Corn Yields in Brazil

For Brazil’s second corn crop, our Monitor Yield Outlook product forecasts yields below historical average, especially for the states of Mato Grosso do Sul, Paraná, and São Paulo. The below average yields in these Brazilian states are largely driven by heat stress and drought, captured in our model’s yield impact drivers, which are quantified relative to historical data. Want a deeper dive into our yield forecasts?

Yield Impact Drivers

A list of Yield Impact Drivers from our Monitor Yield Outlook product.

Comparison Data YO

Monitor Yield Outlook 2024 forecast showing many areas of Brazil producing
corn yields below the historical average.

The Near Future

Brazil, northern South America, and part of Central America will all be in a waiting game for moisture and cooler temperatures. The core of the heat and above normal temperatures will most likely remain over southern Brazil. The heat should subside heading into late May and June, but there is still potential for the drought to extend until October. This would be due to a combination of both the positive phase of the IOD and weak dry phases of the MJO creating a long period of dryness. Even the start of La Niña may not be enough to overcome the dry conditions.

The ClimateAi model continues to accurately forecast the heat across Brazil and other parts of the world experiencing increased climate volatility. The reality is that extreme climate events are increasing in frequency as the planet warms. This has a huge impact on the food and commodity supply chain. Reach out to ClimateAi to discover how our technology can help your business’ climate resilience plan in the short and long term.

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