China’s Record Heatwave, Worst Drought In Six Decades

In the summer of 2022, parts of China were hit by record-breaking heat waves which reportedly impacted shipping, water irrigation, and hydropower generation. Factory operations in some plants, including Tesla, Foxconn, and Toyota were temporarily suspended due to the power supply shortage.

Chinese mountains with red sun on horizon

Is the Yangtze River Drying Up?

There is a shortage of hydropower generated by Yangtze dams because the river water that rotates turbines has partially dried up. Consequently, multiple regions of China, including Sichuan and Hubei, have experienced severe power cuts. The Yangtze river (also known as the “Changjiang” in Chinese) may have dropped to half its average water levels. According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), the Yangtze is the world’s third longest river and it extends for 3,900 miles, running through 10 provinces, including Sichuan, Tibet, and Shanghai. Sichuan in particular is highly reliant on hydroelectric dams for power, which makes it among the most impacted.

The Yangtze river, which provides drinking water for hundreds of millions of people, has reached historically low water levels due to increased water evaporation caused by record high temperatures. Infrequent rain is also contributing to the decrease in hydropower production, as rainfall increases the amount of water available for hydropower turbines.

2022 China Heat Wave

The 80 million residents in the Sichuan province observed temperatures as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) amid a 70-day heat wave this summer of 2022. In August, the temperature in Chongqing in Sichuan province reportedly hit 45°C (113°F), among the highest temperatures recorded in China. While portions of river reservoirs that would normally be used to generate electricity were drying up, power demands continued to rise as homes and businesses relied on air conditioning to cool off.

China not only witnessed its lowest levels of rainfall in 61 years but also felt what is arguably its most severe heatwave ever recorded in terms of duration and intensity. Widespread drought driven by extreme heat has made governments more concerned with crop protection and water conservation. Local authorities were ordered to cut water supplies were cut for agriculture and industrial uses.

On August 13th at 9:30 a.m., the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) activated level four emergency responses, which requires meteorological departments in the affected region to release timely and accurate updates on the extreme weather.

If nothing else, China’s extreme weather during this summer should raise public awareness of climate change’s effects.