Cold Kills Millions of Fish in Bolivia

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claims this July was the 5th warmest on record in spite of the fact that Argentina had its coldest winter in 40 years and it snowed in southern Brazil.

Tropical parts of landlocked Bolivia, where rivers normally flow in a 20 C (68 F) environment, experienced 0 C (32 F) air temperatures that killed 6 million fish. Water temperatures dropped from 15 C (59 F) to 4 C (39.2 F).

A water temperature of 4 C or 39.2 F is significant because it is the approximate temperature at which water is most dense. Normally such water would be expected to be at the bottom with warmer or colder water on top. The temperature of moving water can fall below freezing without freezing.

According to researcher Michel Jégu, “In the rivers near Santa Cruz there’s about 1,000 dead fish for every 100 metres of river.”

“The last time something of this magnitude happened was 47 years ago,” said Santa Cruz (Bolivia) governor Ruben Costas because his province was suffering a “major environmental catastrophe”. He warned that river water was unsafe to use because of the dead plants and fish in it. He promised to truck in drinking water.

On July 15 it was actually colder in parts of Argentina than some portions of Antarctica held by Argentina. The cold wave has stressed Argentina’s energy system. The resulting energy shortage has forced the temporary shutdown of some manufacturing plants.

Colder than normal water temperatures have been suggested as the cause of the many dead penguins found on Brazil’s beaches.

South America’s cold air, like the cold air in the northern hemisphere, comes from the polar region, but cold air in the southern hemisphere passes over water that is above freezing before reaching South America. Cold air in the northern hemisphere passes over ground that is usually already frozen, or freezes as the cold air passes. Cold air passing over open water could warm slightly before affecting land.

The United States has also recently experienced colder than usual winter weather. Last December Houston received its earliest snow on record.

Maine set an all time record cold temperature record in February, 2009.

We need to insure that we have sufficient energy resources to avoid the situation that recently happened in Argentina when businesses had to close because they couldn’t get the necessary energy. Incidentally wind power can fail in cold weather as happened in Texas in February, 2008.


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