Heat Wave Hits Crisis Levels

As the thermometer mercury hovers well above 100 °F (37 °C) in many southern and eastern Chinese cities for the fourth day in a row during a month-long heat wave, the China Meteorological Administration has issued a level-two emergency response. Xinhua reports:

A summer heat wave sweeping China has brought high temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius, triggering a level two emergency response to heat from the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) for the first time on Tuesday.

The level two emergency response to heat covers provinces including east China’s Anhui, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Jiangxi,central China’s Hunan and Hubei, south China’s Fujian, and Shanghai and Chongqing municipalities.

The response is launched after a second level heat alert is issued for two consecutive days and will continue for the following three days, according to the CMA.

[…]Authorities have warned the public against heatstroke and fires. They have also recommended that people take sufficient measures to stay cool and limit outdoor activities. [Source]

And the authorities’ recommendations are being heeded by many, as noted in a report describing “creative” means of keeping cool (along with an accompanying photo gallery) from Quartz. The article also describes the tragic fate of some of those who aren’t able to stay indoors, and Internet trends inspired by the weather:

The “sauna weather,” as it’s called, is starting to take its toll. Several havedied of heat strokes already, including construction workers (links in Chinese), many of whom are migrants with weak worker protections and limited health care benefits. Xinhua reported that the mortality rate for heat strokes could be as high as 50%-70% (registration required) due to lack of timely treatment. Meanwhile, a drought in Guizhou has left 1 million without a steady supply of water (video), with electricity and water usage off the charts in many other cities as well.

As temperatures soared, people all over China devised ways of beating the heat, driving what some call “the heatwave economy” (link in Chinese). On Taobao, China’s eBay-cum-Amazon, searches for heat deterrents are up, with a PR rep reporting 2.5 times as many fan sales as last year. Meanwhile, restaurants and groceries are doing brisk business in deliveries (link in Chinese).

Some have sought more active ways of cooling off. Around 15,000 people in Sichuan province, where the high was 100 °F, thronged a wave pool in a resort near “China’s Dead Sea.” Online commenters quickly arrived at a name for them: “boiling dumplings” (link in Chinese). Along with ”heatwave” and “heatstroke,” “China’s Dead Sea” was among the top most discussed items on social network Sina Weibo today. [Source]

While the temperature has broken 104 °F (40 °C) in over 40 cities and regions this month, the Global Times’ forecasts some of the scorching temperatures ahead, provides some meteorological statistics about the heat wave, and relays one expert’s explanation of the record-breaking heat:

Temperatures are expected to climb as high as 41 C in central Zhejiang, southeast of Sichuan Basin and parts of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Xinhua quoted the CMA as saying.

The CMA forecast that temperatures over 35 C will linger along the Yangtze River and the Huaihe River, regions south of the Yangtze River and Chongqing from Tuesday to August 8.

According to statistics from the National Climate Center, which is affiliated with the CMA, since July 1 the heat wave has spread across one third of China’s territory. And an area of 189,000 square kilometers, almost the size of Syria, saw temperatures soaring above 35 C for more than 20 days in July.

This year saw more hot days because subtropical high pressures are stronger and more stable than ever, Zhang Mingying, an expert with the Beijing Municipal Meteorological Bureau, told the Global Times, advising people to cut down on outdoor activities when temperatures are high. [Source]

The AFP reports that in Shanghai, a hard-hit city where some are seeking refuge in supermarkets and local reporters earlier succeeded in cooking pork on the pavement amid 102 °F (39 °C), at least ten had died of heat stroke as of last Friday:

More than 10 people have died in China’s commercial hub Shanghai, a local health official said on Wednesday as the city grapples with its highest temperatures in at least 140 years.

Leng Guangming, a spokesman at the Shanghai Municipal Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said there had been at least 10 victims of heat stroke up to last Friday in the city. He declined to give a more precise or more recent number.

City forecasters said temperatures were “rising rapidly” and could reach 40 degrees in People’s Square on Wednesday.

[…]The temperature reached 40.6 degrees last Friday, topping a previous high of 40.2 degrees in 1934 and the highest since records began in 1873, Xinhua said earlier. [Source]

Earlier this year, the AP cited a recent study to report on the role that greenhouse gas emissions are playing in driving up temperatures in China (suspected to understate their carbon emissions, China is the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter by volume, and last year per capita emissions climbed to match the level of the EU):

China, the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide, is directly feeling the man-made heat of global warming, scientists conclude in the first study to link the burning of fossil fuels to one country’s rise in its daily temperature spikes.

China emits more of the greenhouse gas than the next two biggest carbon polluters — the U.S. and India — combined. And its emissions keep soaring by about 10 percent per year.

While other studies have linked averaged-out temperature increases in China and other countries to greenhouse gases, this research is the first to link the warmer daily hottest and coldest readings, or spikes.

[…]The study by Chinese and Canadian researchers found that just because of greenhouse gases, daytime highs rose 0.9 degree Celsius (1.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in the 46 years up to 2007. At night it was even worse: Because of greenhouse gases, the daily lows went up about 1.7 degrees Celsius (3 degrees Fahrenheit). [Source]


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