‘Red’ alert for Beijing as heat wave sweeps northern China

Temperatures top 41 degrees, prompting concerns about energy shortage
Subel Rai Bhandari for RFA
2023.06.23
Bangkok, Thailand
‘Red’ alert for Beijing as heat wave sweeps northern China A woman walks with cold patches on her forehead and neck amid a red alert for heatwave in Beijing, June 23, 2023.
Credit: Reuters

Beijing issued a “red” alert level Friday, a day after the city’s temperature soared to a record for June, weather authorities and local media said, as northern China suffers a scorching heat wave expected to extend into next week.

Already, several monthly heat records have been broken across China, which has prompted fears of a looming energy crisis.

On Thursday afternoon, Beijing’s temperature reached 41.1 degrees Celsius (105.9 F), a record since data collection started in 1961, according to the municipal weather observatory. It was also Beijing’s second-highest level in history, just below the 41.9 C (107.4 F) registered on July 24, 1999.

This week’s scorching heat has coincided with the annual Dragon Boat Festival holiday, which started on Thursday, when millions of Chinese travel to visit relatives or for tourism.

Authorities urged residents to remain indoors.

“Citizens and tourists are reminded to reduce the time for outdoor activities during high-temperature periods, pay attention to heatstroke prevention and cooling, and replenish the water frequently,” the state-owned China Weather Network said in a warning Friday.

Last summer, China faced its most severe heat wave and drought in many decades, resulting in extensive power deficits and significant food and industrial supply network disruptions.

Humans contributing

According to a scientific report last month, the record-breaking heat wave that hit parts of Asia in April was made at least 30 times more likely due to human-induced climate change.

The temperatures were at least 2 degrees Celsius hotter due to climate change, which has seen average global temperatures rise 1.2 degrees since 1900, the World Weather Attribution (WWA) study said.

Experts have said clear and dry conditions now have exacerbated the current heat wave.

ENG_ENV_BeijingTemperature_06232023.2.jpg
A man and woman relax after swimming in a canal during a heatwave in Beijing, June 23, 2023. Credit: AFP

It was the first time that Beijing, home to more than 21 million people, issued a “red” alert in its four-tiered warning system since the new system was introduced in 2015. 

On Friday, Beijing’s temperature hit 40.3 degrees C (104.5 F), the first time on record that China’s capital rose to more than 40 degrees, the Beijing weather observatory’s chief forecaster, Zhang Yingxin, told a press briefing, according to media reports.

China’s National Meteorological Center said temperatures in parts of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Shandong rose rapidly over 40 C (104 F), with a total of 19 observatories in four regions reporting record-high temperatures, Zhang Fanghua, its chief forecaster said, according to CWN. 

In the northern port city of Tianjin, the temperature reached 41.2 C (106.16 F), a record high for the region.

The temperature reached 43 C (109.4 F) in coastal Shandong on Thursday, according to the meteorological center.

Local authorities in northern and eastern Chinese cities have issued heatstroke and dehydration warnings, advising people not to work outdoors during the hottest parts of the day.

Meanwhile, in southern China, authorities issued the lowest “yellow” alert for rainstorms on Friday, with heavy rains projected to hit parts of Guangxi Zhuang, Fujian, Guangdong and Yunnan in the coming days.

Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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