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China's Monster Heatwave Is One Of The Harshest Ever Recorded

The rest of the world will feel the burn from China's ongoing heatwave.

author

Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockAug 24 2022, 15:24 UTC
A tourist rests their weary little head on the Shanghai waterfront during China's heatwave on July 22, 2022.
A tourist rests their weary little head on the Shanghai waterfront during China's heatwave on July 22, 2022. Image credit: Ferrara Luca/Shutterstock.com

China is currently grappling with the harshest heatwave and worst drought ever recorded, resulting in dried-up lakes, power cuts, wildfires, and looming agriculture problems. The heatwave s potentially one of the longest ever seen anywhere in the world, while the scale and intensity of the baking hot water are also breaking national records. 

As of August 15, China’s heatwave had lasted 64 days. This was the longest since records began in 1961, surpassing the record of 62 days in 2013, according to the World Metrological Organization. Nine days later and the temperatures are yet to drop, meaning China’s heatwave has now gone on for over 70 days. 

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On August 18, temperatures in the municipality of Chongqing topped 45°C (113°F), the highest ever recorded in China outside the of Xinjiang region.

Last week, it was reported that a third of the 600 weather stations along the Yangtze River clocked their highest temperatures ever by last Friday, with many tipping over the 40°C (100°F) mark.  

Paired with this record-smashing heat, China is also suffering from a severe lack of drizzle. Rainfall is reportedly down 45 percent from average in China and water in the main body of the Yangtze –  as well as two major lakes in its basin, Dongting and Poyang –  has fallen to its lowest recorded level.

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The longest river in Asia that provides water for hundreds of millions of people, the Yangtze, has dried out (video above) and reached some of its lowest water levels on record. 

The lack of water is causing a myriad of problems for China. The coming weeks are a key period for the autumn harvest of rice, grain, and other crops in the Yangtze basin, putting agricultural output under a “severe threat.” If yields are low, that’s likely to have an impact on food prices worldwide.

Some regions have opted for cloud-seeding weather modification to ease the situation, but they’re fighting an uphill battle.

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Then there’s the issue of hydroelectric dams. Some provinces, such as Sichuan in southwest China, rely on hydropower, but drought-stricken reservoirs are disrupting electricity generation. This has forced thousands of factories to temporarily close their doors and cease production. Once again, the waves of this are likely to be felt beyond China, since the affected regions are important hubs of production for computer chips, solar panels, and vehicles.


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