Ever since human beings could communicate with each other there has been a fascination with the weather. “How’s the weather?” is a question we ask every day and small talk about how hot or cold, wet or snowy, windy or stormy it is, is often the way most conversations start. However, over the past few years weather has become a more serious topic of conversation due to the frequent, oft devastating weather extremes experienced all over the world. Many have squarely placed the blame on global warming and in China, some people even blame the Three Gorges Dam. No matter what the cause, one thing is clear: over the past 12-18 months China has witnessed a number of extreme, hard to explain, costly beyond belief and unfortunately for the inhabitants of areas hit, deadly weather conditions. Below, we map out some of the most significant record-breaking weather extremes in recent Chinese history.
1) Record-breaking temperatures
It’s no secret that the weather seems to be getting hotter and the summer season seems to hang around a little longer than normal. Last summer in China, the country experienced some of highest temperatures over a long period of time since records began. However, if recent temperatures are anything to go by, this summer will be another record-breaking one. On August 1, 2013, Shanghai recorded 25 consecutive days with temperatures soaring over 35 degrees with no immediate relief in sight. This latest heat wave has so far claimed 11 lives and July 26 went down in history as the hottest day in 140 years. Pictures of bacon cooking on a marble surface is a fair, if somewhat dramatic indication just how unbearably hot it is there.
2) It’s raining cats and dogs!
After the population has suffered almost second degree burns from the tropical conditions they are then subject to heavy rains. We are not talking about a day’s rain and minor discomfort but about another weather extreme which is precipitation reminiscent of Noah’s Ark days. Recent flooding in Pakistan killed approximately 10,000 and on three separate occasions in Britain the country was hit with unprecedented rains that flooded the country and made it the wettest year in England since records began over 100 years ago.
In China, Beijing suffered its heaviest rainfall in 60 years that caused the deaths of 79, displaced close to 60,000 and cost the nation approximately 10 billion RMB. In fact, according to the Chinese Bureau of Meteorology extreme weather conditions in China in 2012 caused economic losses of 335.8 billion RMB to say nothing of the deaths from drowning, mudslides, heat exhaustion and extreme cold in the north. It certainly didn’t help when the country was lashed by three typhoons in a week which affected 15 provinces.
The Chinese public complained via the internet about the inefficient drainage systems and the lack of timely warnings about coming weather, and certainly Chinese drainage systems right throughout the country leave a lot to be desired, but there is no such system anywhere in the world that can effectively handle a prolonged downpour of 40mm – 60mm per hour! Along with the rain, sometimes came hail and due to the size of the hail stones that fell in some areas, it caused structural and property damage in the millions of RMB.
3) It’s how cold?
The 2012/2013 winter in China was one of the coldest in recent history with record low temperatures and snow falls in places that don’t usually get snow. According to the China Meteorological Administration, that winter saw the lowest average temperatures in three decades.
In Xinjiang continual snow resulted in the collapse of roofs on more than 1000 houses and in the far central north of Inner Mongolia, usually pretty cold anyway, the extreme cold affected 770,000 people and killed almost 200,000 livestock.
The cold wave in China this past winter affected more than 420,000 people in the southwest, an area that would not normally be subject to such weather. Freezing cold conditions lingered in Guizhou Province with rain and heavy snowfalls forcing the government to relocate more than 5000 people. Direct economic loss was estimated at 73 million RMB. Many parts of southern China are without heating which made the freezing temperatures even more grueling.
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Keywords: weather extremes in China recent Chinese history
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