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Asia Minute: China bakes under extreme heat and drought

China Drought
Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Students carrying umbrellas stand on the dry riverbed of the Jialing River in southwestern China's Chongqing Municipality, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022. Ships crept down the middle of the Yangtze on Friday after the driest summer in six decades left one of the mightiest rivers shrunk to barely half its normal width and set off a scramble to contain damage to a weak economy in a politically sensitive year. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

While it’s been relatively hot and humid over much of the state in recent days, that’s nothing compared to the weather in some other parts of the world. That includes China, where a punishing heat wave has been pushing residents for more than two months.

Parts of southern China have been baking under extreme heat for more than 70 days.

Over that time, state media report more than 260 weather stations have set records for high temperatures — with many reaching levels at or near 40 degrees Celsius. That’s 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Drought has come with the heat — and that’s hurting farmers.

China Drought farming 82022
Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Gan Bingdong uses a hose to water plants near a dying chili pepper plant at his farm in Longquan village in southwestern China's Chongqing Municipality, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

This week, China’s Agriculture Ministry said the weather is posing a “serious threat” to this autumn’s grain harvest.

Officials are urging farmers to harvest rice now and store it — and if possible switch to crops that can be harvested later in the fall.

Dry weather also means electricity problems in many regions.

The International Hydropower Association says nearly 20% of China’s electricity comes from hydroelectric power.

Factory production has been cut back in the southwestern provinces of Chongqing and Sichuan because of issues with electricity.

Subways, train stations and some office buildings have reduced their lighting for the same reason.

Many companies have set the lowest temperature for air conditioning to the equivalent of 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

One sliver of hope — rain and cooler temperatures are expected in many parts of the affected regions — with the weather easing gradually over the next ten days.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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