The heatwave in China, which has stretched past 70 days, is the longest and most widespread on record. Around 30 percent of the 600 weather stations along the Yangtze river basin recorded their highest temperatures ever by August 19
China has been witnessing the worst heatwave in over 60 years with temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius in several regions this month. The prolonged heatwave has caused severe drought drains in main reservoirs of the country, prompting power outages, affecting water supplies and shutting down key factories.
Last week, the country issued its first national drought alert of the year, following weeks of extreme heat conditions in areas like Shanghai in the Yangtze Delta region and Sichuan in southwest China. The heatwave in the country, which has stretched past 70 days, is the longest and most widespread on record, Reuters reported.
The severe conditions have stoked fears of an economic downturn. Some experts believe that the intensity of the heatwave could be one of the worst recorded in global history, BBC reported. Meanwhile, local authorities in the Yangtze river basin have been scrambling to limit the damage on crops and livestock.
China hit by power crunches
China has been facing record-breaking temperatures since early July. This, along with low rainfall, has resulted in severe drought conditions and widespread power outages.
In recent weeks, power outages sparked concerns over a repeat of last year’s electricity crunch during the pandemic which hurt the manufacturing hubs. This week, the authorities have asked many cities in southwestern China to cut power to some industrial businesses.
Why is it happening
Sichuan region depends on hydropower systems for more than 80 percent of its energy. Besides, it is typically rainy season in Sichuan from May to October, which further allows hydropower stations to maximise output to meet peak demand.
However, according to the Economic Times report, rainfall in the region fell 30 percent in July and 60 percent in August compared to the seasonal average, severely affecting the hydropower generation capacity. Also, the power demand surged 25 percent as compared to a year ago because of the use of air conditions due to the heatwave.
Meanwhile, there has been shortage of water in some areas. The Yangtze, the world’s third largest river, provides water to over 400 million Chinese people. The water levels in the river dropped to record low this summer, limiting water supply for millions of Chinese people and farmers.
Drought in China (Credits: Shuttershock)
These factors eventually lead to power crisis, impacting companies and residential areas. Chongqing city and Hubei province have also been impacted by the hydropower deficit.
Moreover, in Sichuan, Chongqing, Hebei, Hunan, Anhui and Jiangxi, around 2.2 m hectare of agricultural land has been affected, The Guardian reported. Forests and mountains in several districts in Chongqing have witnessed wildfires. On August 23, an urgent joint emergency notice was issued by four government departments, warning of "severe threat" to the autumn harvest.
What is the government doing?
The government has adopted a slew of measures to conserve energy and combat the drought — including switching off the lights at the iconic skyline in Shanghai, called The Bund, for two nights and urging government offices in Sichuan to keep air conditioning levels not below 26C.
In Chongqing region, local authorities asked industrial firms to restrict output until at least August 25. Power supplies have been restricted in factories in Sichuan and rerouted to households, BBC reported.
Chinese authorities are trying to induce rainfall in parts of central and southwest China by utilising cloud-seeding technology, CNN reported.
Cloud seeding is a form of weather modification in which chemicals are sprayed on to the clouds so they rain earlier. The practice has been prevalent since the 1940s with China having the biggest program in the world.
Why is this happening?
Some experts believe this year’s power cuts are different from last years' and are unlikely to stretch too far beyond summer, CNBC reported.
Analysts said this year’s power problem is related to weather and is expected to improve once temperatures begin to drop. Last year, the power crisis was caused by long-running structural problems in the electricity supply.
Notably, heatwaves have become more frequent and severe due to climate change. Apart from China, several countries in Europe are also dealing with a catastrophic rise in temperatures in recent weeks, Indian Express reported.
First Published: IST