What is causing record floods and heatwaves in China?
Record flooding in southern China this month has displaced more than half a million people, while heat is scorching roads in other parts of the country.
Authorities have issued extreme weather warnings in multiple regions, while experts warned that these phenomena were more evidence of the impact of climate change.
How bad are the floods?
Summer flooding is common in China, especially in the low-lying area of the Pearl River Delta in the south.
This year, however, the National Climate Center predicts flooding will be “relatively worse” and “more extreme” than before.
Water levels at a site in Guangdong province “surpassed historical records” this week, according to the water resources ministry, while parts of neighboring Fujian province and the Guangxi region also reported record rains.
More than half a million people were evacuated this month due to the flood threat.
In the cities of Guangzhou and Shaoguan in Guangdong province, heavy rainfall turned roads into rivers and people had to be taken to safety in lifeboats.
County authorities estimate the economic damage from the floods at more than a quarter of a billion dollars.
What about the heat wave?
Seven provinces in northern and central China warned millions of residents on Wednesday not to go outside as temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
State broadcaster CCTV this week showed images of cement roads cracked under extreme heat in central Henan province.
Meanwhile, power demand soared to record levels in several northern cities this week, as residents turned up the air conditioning to beat the heat.
In China’s second most populous province, Shandong, which is home to more than 100 million people, electricity consumption exceeded 93 million kilowatts on Tuesday, surpassing the record 90 million kilowatts in 2020, CCTV said.
What is the economic cost?
China’s central economic planner estimates that extreme weather will reduce one to three percent of the country’s GDP each year.
Last year’s floods in China cost $25 billion – the world’s second-largest flood-related damage after Europe, according to a study published in April by reinsurer Swiss Re.
Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang warned on Wednesday that floods and heatwaves will affect production of staple grains, vegetables and pork and push up inflation.
Why is this happening?
“Extreme weather and climate events in the country have become more frequent, severe and widespread,” China Meteorological Administration said Wednesday.
It followed a March warning from Xiao Chan, deputy director of the National Climate Center, saying that “Global warming and La Nina events are contributing to abnormally high temperatures and extreme rainfall in China.”
As the Earth’s atmosphere warms, it retains more moisture, making the rainfall more intense.
La Nina refers to the widespread cooling of surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, causing devastating flooding in southern China, India and Bangladesh.
What is China doing about it?
China has built a network of huge dams and “sponge towns” with permeable sidewalks to try to limit the devastation during the annual flood season.
“But the most damaging recent floods have occurred in areas that are historically less at risk,” said Scott Moore, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania who studies China’s environmental policy.
“This is a classic effect of climate change: increased extreme weather in different regions and at different times of the year than the historical average.”
China is the world’s largest coal-burning nation and largest emitter of greenhouse gases leading to climate change.
It aims to be carbon neutral by 2060, but local governments have been ramping up investment in both renewables and coal in recent months.
Beijing has also not yet outlined exactly how it intends to achieve its emissions targets.
Environmentalists have warned that without specifying the peak size or setting an absolute ceiling, China could essentially continue to increase emissions until 2030.
Focus on forecasting?
A new climate change adaptation roadmap released by the Chinese government last week says the focus must now shift to predicting extreme weather more accurately using sensors and satellites.
“The usefulness of weather forecasts stops for about 10 days, after which their accuracy quickly drops to that of a coin,” think tank Trivium China said in a research paper.
“Climate monitoring and forecasting is a whole different story,” helping to predict severe floods and droughts at least a month in advance.
Record floods threaten South China
© 2022 AFP
Quote: What Causes Record Floods and Heat Waves in China? (2022, June 25) retrieved on June 25, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-heatwaves-china.html
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