The International Red Cross has published a map of the provinces most affected by the flooding caused by the torrential summer rains this month that broke the drought in central and southern China. Just about every one along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze river has been hit by what are being said to be the worst floods since the 1950s. The thumbnail above clicks through to a .pdf version of the full sized map.
Tag Archives: Map
The drought on the North China Plain, the country’s main wheat growing region, that has lasted since October already alarms Chinese authorities, who say Shandong, the province at the epicenter and which has had only 12 mms of rain since October, is facing its worst drought in 200 years. Now the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has issued a special alert — which means an early warning alert — about the situation.
The agency says the June harvest of the winter wheat crop is at risk from the substantially below normal rainfall on the parched plain and from the diminished snow covering that has reduced the protection snow usually affords against plant-killing frost.
Although the current winter drought has, so far, not affected winter wheat productivity, the situation could become critical if a spring drought follows the winter one and/or the temperatures in February fall below normal.
In the maps below, the redder the area the more below average has been the cumulative rain and snow fall between October last year and January this. The worst affected area, circled in blue, falls directly over the plain.
The main provinces affected are Shandong, Jiangsu, Henan, Hebei and Shanxi. In 2009, they produced 75.6 million tonnes of China’s 112.5 million tonnes of wheat, or 67%, a typical share. Offical estimates are that 5.2 million hectares of the 14 million hectares under winter wheat in these provinces may have been affected by the current drought. It has also left more than 2.5 million people and 2.8 million livestock facing shortages of drinking water.
China, we should note, is not facing a risk of imminent food shortages, even if the June wheat crop should fail; it has reserves and can import. However, wheat prices are already rising. The national average price of wheat flour is a sixth higher than a year ago. That and the worldwide rise in agricultural commodities prices are feeding through to persistent domestic consumer price inflation and the latest interest-rate rises, despite price controls introduced last year. Longer-term, authorities are concerned that China’s grain production, after seven successive years of increases, is hitting a plateau because of structural shortages of land, hands and water.
The North China Plain, 410,000 square kilometers of the most water-starved area in China, has become a poster child for the problem. A long record of deforestation and desertification has led to the erosion of former farmland. Urbanization, industrialization and the rapid growth of cities such as Beijing and Tianjin at the north-eastern end of the plain have gobbled up more farmland and caused the water table to sink lower and lower year after year. Shallow village wells are drying up. New wells are having to be sunk into the unreplenishable deep aquifer under the plain. Recurrent droughts only amplify the problems.
It is going to take more than normal rainfall to turn the increasingly arid North China Plain green again. The government is allocating vast sums not just to drought relief efforts but also to water conservation infrastructure and grand if controversial plans to draw irrigation water off three western and southern rivers through a series of canals and pipes — a project that will cost more than the Three Gorges dam.
More unusual weather is in the forecast for the final three months of what has already been a highly untypical year of drought and floods, according to the latest seasonal forecast from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, the source of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) regional weather outlook maps (snapshot of the latest below; full map).
As northern China heads into its dry season, there is likely to be heavier than usual rains in central China between October and December (the darker green area on the map, left). However, in the south, barely over the summer’s floods, dryer than usual weather is in the forecast for the same period (the orange areas).
Temperatures are likely to unseasonably warm across the country, and especially in the southwest, though that stands in contrast to the prediction in August by Jiao Meiyan, deputy chief of China Meteorological Administration, that winter will be severely cold.
Meanwhile, rain has returned to Hainan, the most recent province to have been inundated by flooding, disrupting the lives of 2.7 million people across the island.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has just updated its Asia regional map of natural disasters it is monitoring, including its weather forecast into November. Snapshot below; full map here. Heavier than normal rainfall is expected to continue into November in north, central China. The good news is that the area forecast to be affected is much smaller than when OCHA last forecast (into October) about a month back and the rains will be less intense.
After the spring’s droughts and summer’s floods, winter will be severely cold, according to Jiao Meiyan, deputy chief of China Meteorological Administration. He told Xinhua that China has been experiencing weather this year much like that in 1998 when the El Nino and La Nina climate systems in the Pacific combined in a distinctive way known as the Southern Oscillation that stalls weather systems around the world. Wikipedia has a more detailed explanation, and a discussion about whether it is caused by global warming.
The salient point is that historically that combination of El Nino and La Nina, which occurs every three to seven years, is associated with severe droughts and floods around the world, as we have seen this year from the eastern U.S., to Russia, Pakistan and Eastern Europe as well as China.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’s latest map showing the probability of above average rainfall between August and October (snapshot below) offers little comfort to the already deluged northern and central parts of the country. The darker the green, the greater the probability of heavier than usual rains.
The hatched area in the northeast, Jilin and the North Korean border, was the region previously worst affected by the flooding and landslides that have been triggered by the year’s torrential rains.
The OCHA’s full map for the Asia-Pacific is here.
More than 2,300 artillery shells and 400 rockets were fired Saturday as officials tried to make rain over the drought-stricken North China plain. The China Meteorological Administration said these operations brought an average 0.5 millimeters of rainfall to 17 counties and cities in Henan province. Other areas of the plain saw one to five millimeters of rain overnight.
Xinhua reports that the rush to irrigate the summer crop now has 52.7 percent of the wheat farmland in the drought-hit provinces watered, according to the agriculture ministry. A Ministry of Water Resources says water from the Yangtze River will be diverted north to Jiangsu province while sluices on the Inner Mongolian section of the Yellow River, will be opened to increase water supply for Henan and Shandong provinces. Downstream sluices are already open.
We are also starting to get reports of drought affecting rice-growing Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
Here is a snapshot of the affected wheat-growing area of the North China Plain from ReliefWeb: