By Wang Qian in Beijing and Yan Yiqi in Hangzhou, Zhejiang
An extended and deadly heat wave is cooking the southern parts of China, with temperatures hitting record highs in seven provinces and regions on Tuesday.
Since early July, dozens of people nationwide have died from heat-related health problems. With temperatures in most areas of the south forecast to pass 35 C and possibly 40 C, the China Meteorological Administration issued the second-highest national heat alert on Tuesday.
The highest alert has never been issued.
“About 19 provinces and regions are experiencing scorching heat, covering more than 3 million square kilometers, almost a third of the country,” said He Lifu, chief weather forecaster at the National Meteorological Center.
How hot has it been? As many micro blog posts and TV reports have shown, it has literally been hot enough to fry an egg on the street. On Wednesday, several people successfully cooked eggs, fish and bacon on street pavements and other surfaces.
In Xiaoshan, Zhejiang province, the mercury hit 42.2 C on Tuesday, a historic high.
“The hot days are mainly caused by a strong Pacific subtropical high, an important atmospheric circulation system influencing the summer climate in China,” said Sun Leng, senior engineer for the China Meteorological Administration’s Climate Data Center.
But don’t expect a cooldown. Satellite images on Wednesday from the Climate Data Center indicate that the hot weather will continue until at least mid-August.
For Guo Renping, July was a nightmare. The 55-year-old worker in Chongqing worked eight-hour shifts for 20 of the 31 days this past month that experienced temperatures higher than 35 C.
Every day, Guo, sorted and transferred garbage at a waste landfill. Every day about 2,000 metric tons of waste is delivered to the landfill. Ground temperatures in that area of the city reached 50 C in July.
“I cannot bear to work in such hot weather for eight hours every day,” said Guo, who added that he was paid a heat-related subsidy by the garbage company.
Some workers in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang, have been luckier than Guo. Several companies chose to give their workers days off.
Zhang Ping, a worker at Hangzhou Xihu Electronic Group, told Xinhua News Agency that most of his co-workers were given a 10-day leave from July 26 to Aug 4 because of the hot weather.
In Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, 1,460 air-conditioned shelters, or cooling centers, have been open since late June. Some stores see as many as 50,000 people pass through their doors on a daily basis.
But while people are taking their own measures to cool down, meteorological authorities are making efforts to induce rainfall and a little reprieve from the heat.
On Tuesday, seven cities and counties in Zhejiang seeded clouds and induced precipitation to combat a drought. Millions of hectares of farmland have wilted under a drought in Zhejiang, Hubei, Hunan, Guizhou and Jiangxi provinces.
In Hangzhou‘s Yuhang district, seven cloud-seeding rockets were launched on Tuesday afternoon to induce rain, resulting in an average of 5.4 millimeters of precipitation and a 10 C drop in temperatures between 3:30 pm and 5 pm, said Shi Feng at the Yuhang Metrological Bureau.
According to the Zhejiang Metrological Bureau, the province has been experiencing its hottest July in 62 years. From July 1 to 29, the average temperature was 30.3 C, while the average precipitation was only 38 mm.
The bureau also said in a statement that 12 cities and counties are preparing to seed clouds and create precipitation. Authorities said once they see clouds and ideal wind directions, cloud-seeding operations will be conducted as soon as possible.