Outrageous heat in Bolivia so intense, ranchers feel ‘pariah’

All it takes is a single gust of wind to draw ranchers to Bolivia’s far-flung highlands, where harsh desert heat gets drastically compounded by the exceptional amount of ultraviolet light that the country receives thanks to a combination of high altitude and high latitude.

“Our sun is different from the sun in most places in the world,” said Jim Maurice, a rancher in the country’s highlands, where highlighting content is common on the cattle stalls, according to AFP. “I haven’t felt good for over a month. I am basically feeling like a pariah, because a lot of people think I am fat, like I am taking advantage of them.”

All it takes is a single gust of wind to draw ranchers to Bolivia’s far-flung highlands, where harsh desert heat gets drastically compounded by the exceptional amount of ultraviolet light that the country receives thanks to a combination of high altitude and high latitude. Image courtesy of Anna Fagan/AFP/Getty Images

Maurice said he is often told to take better care of his cattle and has discussed the heat with veterinarians but he doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

Experts attribute the extraordinary heat conditions to two factors. The high latitude above sea level provides more energy for the air to hold and produce heat, which gives additional strength to the sun. Secondly, Bolivia is in a belt of extreme heat from southern Argentina to northern Peru, creating a dominant air circulation that brings sunless conditions and above-average temperatures.

The USGS maintains that Bolivia and Peru are the world’s two highest latitudes for a country of their sizes. Bolivia’s land area is 28,340 square miles, while Peru’s is about 33,950 square miles.

There have been sun-breaking seasons before, but most scientists say the conditions in central and northern Bolivia have now reached what they call “extreme.” Experts said the country will continue to see record heat for the foreseeable future, adding that the dry conditions in this part of the country are also a serious concern.

“The situation is extremely serious here, the risk of water scarcity is quite extreme,” said Josep Nazario, a senior climate change expert at the National Institute of Water and River Management in San Bartolome. “The future is not good for the water resources.”

In November last year, residents of Cochabamba, a city of around 400,000 residents that has formed the country’s springboard for an opposition to left-wing President Evo Morales, were forced to face water shortages.

Cochabamba water rates were raised from 15 cents per 1,000 cubic meters of water to 80 cents per 1,000 cubic meters. In addition, residents were asked to chip in for extra pumps to supply the city with water.

Officials have said the crisis has been alleviated, however, and that the equipment is in good working order, although they admit that there will still be problems as rainfall levels decrease in the coming years.

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