China’s record-breaking 2022 heatwave and drought – a visual explainer

Affected areas

Since July, provinces and cities in southern China, including Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Chongqing and Sichuan, were affected by drought. Low water levels in the Yangtze River increased pressure on hydroelectric power plants, affecting water supply and electricity production for millions of people and many companies, forcing the temporary closure of factories in some provinces.

Sichuan
Hydropower generates around 80 per cent of Sichuan province’s electricity. The drought cut Sichuan’s power generation capacity by 50 per cent year on year in August

Chongqing
The Jialing River, a tributary of the Yangtze, shrank in places to less than half the width of its channel

Hubei
Since June, drought affected more than 5.7 million people in Hubei province, according to local authorities

Hunan
Average accumulated rainfall in Hunan province between July and August was 54.9mm, about 60 per cent less than normal

Jiangxi
Since July, drought impacted nearly 3 million people in 104 counties and districts in Jiangxi province

Anhui
Anhui province deployed ground-based cloud seeding operations 48 times in 31 urban districts and rural counties on August 15 and 16

Water levels measured at the major hydrologic stations

Drying up

China’s two largest freshwater lakes – Poyang and Dongting, which connect to the Yangtze River – saw their lowest levels since records began in 1951. The biggest, Poyang Lake in eastern China, was at 12 metres on August 6, 2022. That meant it had entered the dry season about 100 days earlier than the average in previous years.

Sichuan: China’s biggest hydropower producer

Sichuan province normally generates almost 30 per cent of China’s hydroelectric power. But the 2022 heatwave saw historically low water levels and, as a result, a massive drop in electricity production.

Associate Creative Director Marcelo Duhalde
Cover image by Victor Sanjinez
Edited by Andrew London

Sources: National Climate Center, Science and Technology Daily, Global Flood Awareness System, National Meteorological Center, Changjiang Maritime Safety Administration, Copernicus Open Access Hub, 中国地质调查局

South China Morning Post

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