Weather tracker: Heatwave sweeps South America as Argentina hits 43C

<span>Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP</span>
Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

A heatwave has hit parts of central South America this week, coinciding with the Immaculate Conception pilgrimage attended by Catholic worshippers.

A sizzling 43.5C was recorded in Santiago del Estero, Argentina, on Wednesday, a day before the holy day. Weather warnings for extreme heat were issued by the Argentinian and the Paraguayan national meteorological services this week, as temperatures rose 10C above the seasonal norm for several days in many places.

The authorities advised the public against going outside for prolonged periods, particularly during early afternoon. The searing heat could not have come at a worse time for those hoping to join the annual pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Miracles in the town of Caacupé, in honour of the Virgin Mary on Thursday.

In an attempt to reduce the risk of heat-related injuries, water tanks were placed along the route to ensure people undertaking the journey could stay hydrated.

Although the extreme temperatures are expected to ease this weekend, a further weather warning, this time for thunderstorms, has been issued across many parts of Argentina for the coming days. Heavy rain, strong winds and possibly hail have also been forecast.

The wet weather is likely to offer some relief to farmers whose crops have struggled during the heatwave. However, the deluge threatens to wreak further devastation in the form of localised flooding and severe hail. On 30 November, a thunderstorm in Buenos Aires produced hailstones the size of golf balls.

South America has not been the only region experiencing warmer than average temperatures recently. Europe and Greenland recorded their 5th warmest November this year. This is an average for the whole continent over this period, but several places have been much colder than average in the past month.