Bolivia’s highlands city of La Paz had been hit by an extraordinary heatwave, with levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation skyrocketing. UV radiation levels have recently reached 21 on a scale that ordinarily only goes up to 20. A UV index of 11 is already considered “extreme” by the World Health Organization so people are advised to minimize sun exposure. “The heat is burning. The sun isn’t normal,” said Segundina Mamani, a La Paz resident. In the highlands, people stay cool by eating shaved ice and hiding in the shades. Luis Blacutt, an atmospheric physics expert in La Paz, confirmed that the rainy season might deliver the same quantity of rain as usual but only for a short period. The laboratory anticipates the elevated UV levels to last at least another week despite some rainfall this week. The input of UV radiation is more evident due to the delayed development of clouds. Since no clouds are covering the city, a tremendous amount of UV radiation is entering the highlands, affecting everyone.

The high-altitude Andean regions of South America are subjected to some of the world’s most harmful amounts of UV radiation, with values reaching record highs of over 40 on the index at times. However, a number in the range of 11 to 17 is more common. With world leaders gathering in Glasgow for the COP26 climate conference amid warnings that the climate light is flashing red, some Bolivian scientists claim that altering rainfall patterns are intensifying UV radiation’s impacts by diminishing cloud cover.