A crippling drought exacerbated by a record heat wave has spread across half of China and reached the normally frigid Tibetan Plateau, according to official data released ahead of more searing temperatures yesterday.
The world’s second-largest economy has experienced more than 70 days of heat waves, flash floods and droughts — phenomena that scientists say are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.
Southern China has recorded its longest continuous period of high temperatures since records began more than 60 years ago, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture said this week.
Experts have said the intensity, scope and duration of the heat wave could make it one of the worst recorded in global history.
A chart from the National Climate Center on Wednesday showed that swathes of southern China — including the Tibetan Plateau — were experiencing “severe” to “extraordinary” drought conditions.
The worst-affected area — the Yangtze River basin, stretching from coastal Shanghai to Sichuan Province in China’s southwest — is home to more than 370 million people and contains several manufacturing hubs, including the megacity of Chongqing.
The China Meteorological Administration predicted continued high temperatures of up to 40oC in Chongqing and the provinces of Sichuan and Zhejiang yesterday.
However, some regions gained relief from the heat wave. Parts of southwestern Sichuan were battered by heavy rains overnight, causing the evacuation of almost 30,000 people, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
And in the southeast, Typhoon Ma-on made landfall in coastal Guangdong Province and Hong Kong yesterday morning.
“High temperatures have basically been alleviated in the regions of south China, Jiangxi and Anhui,” the meteorological agency said. “But high temperatures will continue for the next three days in regions including the Sichuan basin and provinces surrounding Shanghai.”
The Chinese State Council on Wednesday announced a 10 billion yuan (US$1.46 billion) subsidy to support rice farmers experiencing drought conditions, which authorities have warned pose a “severe threat” to this year’s autumn harvest.
China produces more than 95 percent of the rice, wheat and maize it consumes, but a reduced harvest could mean increased demand for imports in the world’s most-populous country — putting further pressure on global supplies already strained by the conflict in Ukraine.
Wednesday’s China Central Television evening news broadcast showed trucks supplying villagers who lacked drinking and agricultural water in rural Sichuan and Chongqing.
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