Asia Minute: South Korea Bakes Under Record Heat

Aug 18, 2016

Beating the heat at the Sinchon Water Gun Festival.
Credit Republic of Korea / Flickr

Several science organizations now agree that last month was the hottest July on record for planet earth.  Calculations from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agree with those from NASA and Japan’s weather office.  And in South Korea, dangerous heat has continued well into August. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

This is a summer of weather extremes in South Korea—especially heat.  With an average temperature of nearly 86 degrees, the first two weeks of August were the hottest since the government started tracking temperatures more than a hundred years ago.

Those high temperatures are sparking concentrations of ozone—which can lead to breathing problems.  So far this summer the government has issued more than 200 ozone warnings—the most since South Korea started those alerts more than twenty years ago.

And it’s not just warnings—lives can be at stake.  So far this summer, at least 16 people have died because of the heat.  Vulnerability also stretches to the power grid.

Air conditioners operating at a furious pace have driven electricity usage rates to record highs several times this summer….at one point stretching the national grid to 93% of its capacity.  The government tries to keep capacity to an absolute maximum of 85% on any given day.

And while this summer is shattering records, the trend is not encouraging either.  Statistics from the Korea Meteorological Association show Seoul’s average temperature in July has climbed from a little more than 73 degrees ten years ago to nearly 80 degrees this year.