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Illustration by Security Management, iStock

Under the Dome: Mexico's Ongoing Heat Wave

A record-high temperature heat wave continues to grip Mexico, causing deaths, nationwide blackouts, and an existing water crisis to be exacerbated.

Ten cities registered these record-highs, up to 34.3 degrees Celsius (93.7 degrees Fahrenheit), including the capital, Mexico City, on 17 May. The aggressive heat is thanks to a heat dome—a persistent and powerful system of high pressure—parked over a large area of Mexico, sometimes drifting south over the Yucatan region.

“The formation has helped to cause already hotter-than-average ocean temperatures across the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico to increase further, raising temperatures of adjacent land areas even more in a positive feedback loop,” Axios reported.


Mexico’s heat wave began in mid-March and has so far been linked to at least 26 deaths, according to the Associated Press (AP). That number jumped up from the seven deaths that were reported by Mexico’s health ministry on 16 May.

Humans have not been the only ones fatally impacted by the heat.

The Biodiversity Conservation of The Usumacinta group reported that at least 138 howler monkeys were found dead in the state of Tabasco since 16 May, according to the AP. The midsize primates are typically intimidating and aggressive—they’re also iconic to the area and categorized as an endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

The monkeys are considered a sentinel species, where its overall health is indicative of an ecosystem.

With temperatures climbing above 113 degrees Fahrenheit, the monkeys started falling out of trees in forests on around 5 May, with peak deaths occurring during the past weekend.

Wildlife biologist Gilberto Pozo told the AP that the monkeys “were falling out of the trees like apples. They were in a state of severe dehydration, and they died within a matter of minutes.” 

Local authorities and volunteers have collected dead Yucatan black howler monkeys from the region.

“To help the remaining animals survive the heat wave, they have also put buckets of water and fruit around the monkey habitats,” Business Insider reported.

Other volunteers rescued some of the monkeys, rushing them to a local veterinarian who said they were suffering from heatstroke, dehydrated and feverish. Pozo and others have established recovery stations for the monkeys, while also treating other animals impacted by the stress of the heat and other factors.

Power Outages

Last week, the heat dome caused blackouts that lasted hours in parts of the country.

“Mexico’s electricity system regulator issued several alerts [last] week as demand in some parts of country exceeded supply,” Reuters reported. “Business chambers and sector analysts criticized the blackouts, accusing the government of not investing in energy transmission networks or insufficient generation to cover demand.”

In June 2023, a three-week-long heat wave strained the nation’s energy grid. The high temperatures were linked to at least 100 deaths, Reuters reported.

Water Shortage

A worsening water shortage throughout much of the country is due to several factors, including below-average rainfall, dwindling water supplies, and lakes and dams drying up.

Authorities have delivered water for hospitals and fire-fighting teams. The nation’s largest chain of convenience stores, OXXO, announced it was limiting customers' purchases of ice bags.

Low levels at hydroelectric dams have contributed to power blackouts in some parts of the country,” the AP reported.

Beyond Borders

The high temperatures have also been felt in Belize, Guatemala, and parts of the United States, where record heat was reported in south Texas and parts of Florida, from Miami to Tampa.

The perimeter of heat domes often generate severe thunderstorms, which occurred over southeastern Texas. Last week’s high winds and flash flooding partly resulted in at least four deaths in Houston, Texas, with the storms reaching as far as Louisiana.

Additional extreme heat events are expected to occur between now and September throughout Texas and the Gulf Coast region.

Extreme heat events also stress the economy, with research indicating that extreme heat cost the global economy on average $16 trillion to $50 trillion between 1993 and 2013, according to Business Insider.

In 2023, extreme heat events regularly broke previous records across the globe. They also triggered serious health problems for many, including the elderly and those with disabilities. Significant heat events last year occurred throughout Europe and in India, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Along with health concerns, extreme heat events can impact labor productivity because they create dangerous conditions for workers in certain sectors that expose employees to the outdoors, such as agriculture, construction, and security.