Heat dome kills people and animals in Mexico

Heat dome: Map of Mexico with shades of red and purple, indicating high maximum temperatures.
These were the extreme maximum temperatures in Mexico from May 19 to 25, 2024. A heat dome parked over Mexico starting in mid-May. The hot temperatures have killed people, monkeys and other wildlife. Image via NOAA.

Heat dome is a killer

Heat domes occur when a high pressure area stays parked over a region, trapping in hot air and preventing precipitation. In the second half of May, a heat dome parked itself over Mexico, Central America and areas of Texas and Florida. The result was baking heat with record high temperatures. The brutal heat hit Mexico especially hard, with nearly 50 people dying of heat stroke and monkeys dropping dead out of trees. The Associated Press reported that an animal park in northern Mexico lost at least 100 parrots, bats and other animals from dehydration. Birds die of dehydration in high temps because they can’t store water. Setting out bowls of water for them could help.

In the U.S., Key West, Florida, tied its highest-ever heat index of 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 C) on May 15. Miami had a heat index of 112 F (44 C) on two consecutive days, May 18 and 19. This broke the daily records by more than 11 degrees Fahrenheit. On May 27, Hobby Airport in Houston set a record high temperature of 98 degrees F (37 C). In fact, seven of the 20 hottest days on record in May for Hobby Airport were from this year.

In Central America, Belize had its second hottest temperature ever on record when Chaa Creek hit 108.1 degrees F (42.3 C) on May 17. Other Central American countries are also experiencing record high days.

Conditions in Mexico

May’s heat has been particularly brutal in Mexico. Yucatan, Mexico, had its hottest day ever in history at Merida with 113 F (45 C) on May 17. North America’s hottest temperature on record for the month of May occurred in Gallinas, Mexico, on May 9 when it hit 124 F (51 C). The state of Oaxaca had their hottest day ever with 118.4 F (48 C) on May 26.

Plus, the extreme drought in Mexico has made it difficult for humans and animals alike to cope with the oppressive heat. Nearly 50 people died of heat stroke. In the state of Tabasco along the Gulf Coast, more than 150 howler monkeys have died.

If that weren’t enough, Mexico is also dealing with multiple wildfires.

Mexico City’s heat and water woes

Mexico City is the largest urban area in North America with more than 22 million people. Twice in the past week, the city – which is 7,349 feet (2,240 meters) above sea level – broke its all-time high record at 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 C). And it may soon be reaching what officials are calling Day Zero, when the water from the underground aquifer runs out. Part of the issue is the drought, and another part is the infrastructure that doesn’t allow for water to drain back into the underground aquifer.

The heat dome and the forecast

The 10-day forecast for Mexico City from The Weather Channel shows high temperatures in the 80s (27 – 32 C) with chances of rain coming next week. In Merida in the Yucatan, temperatures will remain in the 100s and dry. Mexico in general should be prepared for hot temperatures extending through at least the beginning of June. In the United States, temperatures in the south will be more seasonal, though still warm. And some of that late spring warmth should spread northward by the beginning of June, according to the National Weather Service.

Map of US with colors getting deeper toward the southern border. The South and Southwest are red.
The National Weather Service forecast for June 1, 2024, shows more of the United States experiencing warm, late spring temperatures. Image via NWS.

Bottom line: A heat dome brought record temperatures to Mexico, Central America and parts of Florida and Texas in May. Mexico has been hit especially hard.

May 29, 2024

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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