What do you do when a big hairy ape tells you it’s hot? Give it an ice lolly. That was one solution to the heatwave in Rio de Janeiro’s zoo early this week.
And for the second time in a fortnight, downpours from static thunderstorms dumped masses of water on Sao Paulo, whose drainage system failed to cope. Cars submerged to their windows are becoming a more familiar sight.
Rio and Sao Paulo are about 400km apart, or 7 hours by bus, and this separation is sufficient to allow a heat-wave and flooding simultaneously. In fact, the two are frequently companions, with a heat-wave often causing thunderstorms and flash flooding, in many countries.
But this was some heatwave, if short-lived, and not the cause of thunderstorms. On Monday, the thermometer read 38 Celsius in Rio de Janeiro, which is near record heat. More importantly the humidity at the time was around 70 per cent: that makes it especially difficult to keep cool.
Heat exhaustion becomes a real risk when the air is as warm as your body, and it’s humid. In a bid to cool down the big mammals, zoo-keepers in Rio tossed 30-kilo, bucket-sized, lumps of frozen meat at Siberian tigers as they swam about in a pool.
Brown bears won giant blocks of iced watermelon, papayas and grapes. Apes and monkeys nibbled on their own icy treats whilst the humans got hot and bothered.
As for Sao Paulo, it’s nearly as hot and it has thundered every day but one so far this year. The total measured rainfall has been only 54mm, but 22mm of that was recorded out of one storm on Tuesday, and if all of that falls in 10 minutes, a likely event in a thunderstorm, flash flooding is the result.
There is a far more serious side to Brazil’s weather, particularly the rain. Every year floods or consequent landslides kill dozens, sometimes hundreds of people and no Brazilian state is free from risk. Thankfully, heat stress can be avoided.