China swelters through ‘catastrophic’ heatwave


China is experiencing a “catastrophic and unprecedented” heatwave for the start of October, with some areas sweltering through more than 40C temperatures.

It is autumn and temperatures should be dropping, but the country’s October heat record has already been broken numerous times in the past few days. The previous record for the hottest October day was only set last year.

It comes after China’s heatwave in August, which was described by scientists as the worst in world climatic history.

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China has a four-tier, colour-coded weather warning system. The National Meteorological Centre (NMC) issued a yellow alert (third-tier) for high temperatures on Sunday for regions in southern China, including Anhui, Hubei, Hunan, Guizhou and Chongqing, according to local media.

An orange alert (second-tier) for drought was issued in many places in south China, with eastern provinces Zhejiang, Anhui and Fujian also experiencing “excessive drought”.

China’s Global Times reported the NMC said it was unusual that such large parts of the country were still experiencing a heatwave, with temperatures hovering around record highs for the month in many cities.

“Temperature in the middle and lower reaches of Yangtze River already broke the historical record of same period in previous years,” NMC meteorologist Zhang Tao said.

“Before the cold air reaches south China, more places in this region will continue to swelter through extended heat, with the highest temperatures likely to keep growing, and possibly breaking more records.”

Weather historian Maximiliano Herrera described the October heat in China as “catastrophic and unprecedented” on Monday night.

He wrote on Twitter: “40.9C at Qingyang beat the national monthly heat record again, 12 provinces and 470 stations (including Shanghai) pulverised their records, in some cases even by 4C-5C and even above their September records. Mind-blowing heatwave.”

Meanwhile, Global Times also reported the NMC had issued the earliest cold wave warning in history on Sunday with cold air forecast to sweep through north and centre of the country from Sunday to Thursday, including Inner Mongolia, Jilin, Henan, and some parts of Hubei and Anhui.

China’s summer heatwave

Record-breaking extreme heat in China this summer saw lakes and rivers dry up, crops killed and factories close, affecting energy, water and food supplies across the country.

“There is nothing in world climatic history which is even minimally comparable to what is happening in China,” Mr Herrera told New Scientist magazine in August. “This combines the most extreme intensity with the most extreme length with an incredibly huge area all at the same time.”

The extreme temperatures sparked blazing wildfires and caused major power issues. In the midst of the horrible conditions that locals had endured for more than 70 days, a fresh Covid outbreak emerged, prompting authorities to order mass testing.

Confronting photos showed healthcare workers, in full PPE, performing nasal swabs with wildfires blazing just metres away.

BBC China correspondent Stephen McDonell described the scenes in Chongqing as “apocalyptic”.

“Mass coronavirus PCR tests being carried out as bushfires rage following months of heatwave with a record drought threatening crops and severely limiting much needed hydro-electricity,” he tweeted.

Read related topics:ChinaWeather

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