China warns of more floods and heatwaves in 2023

Last year was marked by a record-breaking heatwave and China’s weather agency has warned of more this year, as the climate crisis escalates

People wade through floodwater in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China, 20 July 2021 (Pic: visual.people/Greenpeace)


China’s weather agency warned regional authorities to prepare for more extreme weather this year after record-breaking temperatures and a lengthy drought played havoc with the country’s power supplies and disrupted harvests last summer.

China’s southern regions need to brace for more persistent high temperatures and ensure that energy supplies are available to meet the summer demand peak, while northern regions need to prepare for heavy floods, said Song Shanyun, spokesman at the China Meteorological Administration, at a briefing on Monday.

“At present, global warming is accelerating… and under the impact of climate change, the climate system is becoming increasingly unstable,” Song said.

China was hit last June by a heatwave that lasted more than 70 days, damaging crops, drying up lakes and reservoirs, and causing devastating forest fires throughout the Yangtze river basin. In August, as many as 267 weather stations registered their highest temperatures to date.

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A sharp drop in rainfall in the southwestern regions of Sichuan and Chongqing also forced hydropower facilities to cut output. Local industries had to restrict operations and electricity deliveries to the eastern coast were also affected.

Danson Cheong, a reporter from The Straits Times, said that the soles of his shoes had melted in the heat in Sichuan’s main city Chongqing while Sohu reported that a field of grapes in the province had dried to raisins in the heat.

Average temperatures in China over the whole of 2022 reached 10.5 degrees Celsius, 0.62 Celsius higher than average, Jia Xiaolong, a government expert told the same briefing on Monday, with mean temperatures in spring, summer and autumn at their highest on record.

Average rainfall in China last year was 5% lower than normal, he added.

Campaigners said that last year’s heatwave increased public awareness of the dangers of climate change, pointing to increased media coverage.

Climate attribution expert Friederike Otto told Climate Home in August: “Heatwaves in China have definitely become more common and more intense as well as longer in duration because of human-induced climate change.”

The year before was also marked by climate disasters. In July 2021, flooding in Henan province killed 25 people. Twelve drowned as flood waters filled up the subway carriage they were trapped in.

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