Recent Extreme Weather Events

On July 24, 2015, the temperature reached 50.3°C (122.5°F) near Ayding Lake in Xinjiang Province. This was the highest temperature ever recorded in China.[7] Other heat records have been broken in China in recent years:

  • In July 2018, 24 weather stations across China recorded their highest temperatures ever.[8]
  • On July 20, 2017, Shanghai had its hottest day ever, with the temperature reaching 40.9°C (105°F).[9]
  • In 2013, several southern and eastern provinces had the most severe heat wave in at least 140 years. Chinese authorities declared the heat a “level 2” weather emergency—a designation previously used only for typhoons and flooding. The China Meteorological Association found that human activities increased the likelihood of this heat wave by 60 times.[10]

Heavy rainfall events in China are increasing in frequency and severity.

  • In August and September 2018, record rains fell in parts of Guangdong, requiring the evacuation of more than 200,000 people and causing RMB 2.76 billion (roughly $400 million) in damages.[11]
  • A 2016 study found that heavy rain days have increased 10% while light rain days have decreased 13% since 1961.[12]
  • Another study found that rainfall in southern China in 2015 was 50% greater than the 1971–2000 average and that “rain fell in a series of heavy storms, causing severe flooding in many cities with impacts that included loss of life.”[13]
  • In July 2012, the heaviest rainfall in 60 years hit Beijing, leaving 37 people dead.[14]
  • In July 2007, the worst rainstorms in 115 years hit Chongqing, causing dozens of deaths and extensive property damage.[15]

Droughts have also been a problem:

  • In 2017, parts of Inner Mongolia experienced the worst drought on record.
  • In 2016, drought days in northeastern China were 37% above average.
  • In 2007, a severe drought struck parts of southern China. Reservoirs shrank, and parts of the Yangtze River dropped to the lowest levels since records were first kept in the 19th century (probably due not just to drought but to withdrawals).[16]

(The combination of more heavy rainfall events and more droughts is one likely result of a warming atmosphere, according to climate scientists.)[17]

In 2018, flooding and debris from glacial melt led to the evacuation of thousands of people in two incidents in western China.[18]

Figure 2-1: Average Annual Temperatures (China 1951-2017)


[7] “50.3°C 新疆吐鲁番市艾丁湖刷新 “中国热极” 记录” [50.3°C Xinjiang Turpan Ayding Lake sets China temperature record], Asia Heart Network (July 29, 2015).

[8] Hou Liqiang, “July sees record in temperatures,” China Daily (August 3, 2019).

[9] “Hottest day ever in Shanghai as heat wave bakes China,” (July 21, 2017).

[10] “China endures worst heat wave in 140 years,” USA Today (August 1, 2013); “China’s surface temperature shows a clear upward trend,” People’s Daily (April 11, 2019).

[11] Li You, “Fall Semester Delayed at 120 Schools in Flood-Ravaged City,” Sixth Tone (September 5, 2018).

[12] China Meteorological Administration, ”Global warming has changed pattern of warming in China,” (February 17, 2017).

[13] Stephanie C. Herring et al., “Explaining Extreme Events of 2015 From a Climate Perspective,” Special Supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (December 2016).

[14] “Beijing chaos after record floods in Chinese capital,” BBC (July 2012).

[15] “Rainstorms kill 32 in Chongqing,” China Daily (July 18, 2007).

[16] China Meteorological Administration, ”Global warming has changed pattern of warming in China,” (February 17, 2017); “Droughts in China,” Facts and Details (March 29, 2010);Edward Wong, “Northern China suffering from worst drought on record, officials say,” Today China and India (July 1, 2017).

[17] John Schwartz, “More Floods and More Droughts: Climate Change Delivers Both,” New York Times (December 12, 2018).

[18] Greenpeace, Melting Earth: Glacier Retreat and its Impacts in China’s Cryosphere (November 20, 2018).

[19] China Meteorological Administration, China Climate Bulletin, 中国气候公报 (2017).

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