All burnt out: How China is grappling with the hottest heatwave in six decades

China's worst heatwave has forced authorities to shut down factories for five days in an attempt to conserve electricity. The Asian giant has also imposed rotating blackouts in different areas and instructed people not to use their air-conditioners above the 26 degree Celsius-mark

FP Explainers August 17, 2022 16:54:30 IST
All burnt out: How China is grappling with the hottest heatwave in six decades

The temperature in China has crossed the 40 degrees Celsius-mark in many provinces. Authorities have issued ‘red alerts’ for 11 areas. AP

China is really feeling the heat. The Asian giant is melting away as it faces its fiercest heatwave in six decades, with temperatures crossing 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in dozens of cities.

Eleven provinces currently have warnings in place for temperatures above 40 degree Celsius. Chongqing, a self-administered province surrounded by Sichuan province, reached a record 44.4 degrees Celsius over the weekend.

Sun Shao, a senior research fellow from the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, told the Global Times that this year’s heatwave is the strongest in China ever since the country started meteorological observations in 1961, and the longest.

Sun said that compared with the record-breaking 2013 heatwave in China, which lasted 62 days, this year's heatwave started pretty earlier. “We already saw 62 days of heat wave until Sunday, and its scope of influence and the highest temperature already surpassed those of 2013,” Sun was quoted as saying, noting the heatwave is likely to extend another week.

The rising mercury levels has also resulted in a drought-like condition and pushed electricity usage to a limit. So dire has the situation become that companies have been ordered to shut down and the Xi Jinping-led country is now rationing its power supplies.

Power shortage

The extreme heat has caused a spike in demand for air conditioning in offices and homes, putting pressure on the power grid.

In fact, news agency Reuters has reported that China’s southwestern province Sichuan has begun limiting electricity supply to homes, offices and malls on Wednesday until Saturday.

Residential areas, offices and shopping malls in the area with a population of 5.4 million were informed of the power rationing measure.

Additionally, government offices have been asked to set air conditioners to no lower than 26 Celsius (78.8°F) and use more staircases instead of lifts. The Sichuan Daily also reported that fountains, light shows and commercial activities during the night were to be suspended.

Luzhou, a city in Sichuan, announced that it would shut off the city’s street lights during the night to conserve power and alleviate the pressure on the electricity grid.

The power rationing is also applicable to big factories, including Apple (AAPL) supplier Foxconn and Intel.

Several companies including aluminium producer Henan Zhongfu Industrial and fertiliser producers Sichuan Meifeng Chemical Industry said in statements they were suspending production.

A plant operated by Taiwanese giant and Apple supplier Foxconn in the province has also suspended production, Taipei’s Central news agency reported.

The shutting down of companies in the Sichuan province will naturally affect the lithium output, as the area produces half the nation’s lithium. Susan Zou, an analyst at Rystad Energy, told AFP, that at least 1,200 tonnes of lithium output will be cut due to the operations disruptions in these five day.

All burnt out How China is grappling with the hottest heatwave in six decades

People relax on a beach amid hot weather in Qingdao, in China's eastern Shandong province. AFP

Food prices soar

Another fallout of the scorching heat is the rise in food prices. An AFP news report has noted that the prices of eggs has increased substantially because fewer hens are laying eggs in the hotter-than-usual summer.

In Hefei city, farmers have reported a drop in egg production because of the heat, according to a Jianghuai Morning News report, adding that some facilities have installed cooling systems for their hens.

There are also concerns that the high temperatures that have caused drought-like conditions could affect the food production of China. Globally, sizzling temperatures have dragged down down food production and the same is feared in China too.

Tourism feels the heat too

The rising mercury has also forced authorities to shut down some tourist spots. Operator of the 71-metre-tall Giant Buddha of Leshan, one of the most important cultural treasures of China, in China's Sichuan Province announced that it will close the feet area of the statue to tourists, because of high temperatures.

Even theatres have been ordered to shut down air conditioning owing to the power shortage.

The new normal?

Weather experts have stated that the heatwave will be the "new normal for China in the future.

Chen Lijuan, an expert at National Climate Center was quoted as saying that it is not solely a weather problem. “Against the backdrop of global warming, heatwave will be a 'new normal'. The high temperature starts early, leaves late and lasts long, this will become more and more obvious in the future,” Chen noted.

With inputs from agencies

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