Burning hot in the Bolivian highlands

Written by By Staff Writer

Edwin Escobedo Grothe, CNN

Bolivia is not exactly known for its high altitude. That isn’t stopping its sun-kissed highlands from being scorched in extreme ultraviolet radiation, which — unlike human health effects — is hard to avoid.

Yet in this part of the Andes Mountains, it’s not just that Balchinenos Carigubite — a 70 meter (232 feet) high water tower — is generating dramatic Instagram-worthy images from its top — it’s the way it’s generating the glorious conditions in which its heatrays create a “magnetic field” in the air that is forcing the El Tropic — the worst line of clouds in South America — to make its slow trek south.

The tower was built in 2007, using high-tech modeling software, and typically generates daily heats of more than 2,000 degrees, according to firefighting and engineering experts. The thermometers don’t simply measure the heat, rather the “infrared intensity” of each thermal direction.

Daily temperatures like this from atop Balchinenos Carigubite (Photo: +44 034 396 100 883, www.balchinenoscarigubite.com.ar)

According to fire experts and conservationists, the tower is highly dangerous to explore in close proximity.

‘Extreme temperatures’

“The tower, the origin of the currents, rises three hundred meters through the mountains, and generates extreme temperatures that is dangerous to walk in,” says Ernesto Fraga, president of Bolivian branch of Forestry Management in Lake Titicaca.

“We have 60 days of the year when it produces extreme temperatures, in which days people are starting to die,” says Frank Pizarro, head of expedition Francisco Mosquera, part of a team of experts that now safeguard the tower.

Alessandro Anziaga, in charge of preserving Bolivia’s ancient wetlands, points out that another danger of accessing the site is the threat of avalanches, caused by the eddy formed on the top of the tower. However, experts are quick to point out that the tower’s main challenge is not down below, but on top.

Photo: ‘Arctic’ perspective from the tops of the towers.

“It is not only the flying air that makes this tower so unsafe. The causes of heat are multidimensional and complex, but the most damaging are the currents, which collide and change the vibrations that activate the infra-red intensity of the tower,” says Pizarro.

In the case of the water tower, the heaters in the tower that generate the infra-red intensity work alongside multiple, more modern thermal hydroducts (water tanks) that circulate the humidity that has been emitted by the tower.

Plant life around the tower — notably the huge icebergs that line Lake Titicaca — help balance the effects of the infra-red intensity. However, experts say that from time to time this leaves the infra-red intensity so high that the tower creates the powerful currents, which push the “tropic” clouds to make their way across Lake Titicaca.

The heat is even on a whole other level inside the tower. The inside of the tower is cut off from the outside world by 35 meters.

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