China is sowing clouds to replenish its shrinking Yangtze River

By Wayne Chang, Simone McCarthy and Shawn Deng, CNN and Reuters

Chinese planes shoot stalks into the sky to bring more rainfall to its crucial Yangtze River, which has dried up in places, as swathes of the country descend into drought and grapple with the worst heat wave ever recorded.

Several areas of the Yangtze launched weather modification programs, but with cloud cover too thin, operations in parts of the drought-ravaged river basin remained on hold.

The Ministry of Water Resources said in a notice on Wednesday that drought across the entire Yangtze River basin “adversely affects drinking water security for rural people and livestock, as well as crop growth.”

Hubei Province in central China was the latest to announce on Wednesday that it would seed clouds, using silver iodide rods to induce rainfall.

At least 4.2 million people in Hubei have been affected by severe drought since June, the Hubei provincial emergency management department said on Tuesday. More than 150,000 people have difficulty accessing drinking water, and nearly 400,000 hectares of crops have been damaged due to high temperatures and drought.

The Yangtze is just one of many rivers and lakes in the northern hemisphere that are drying up and shrinking amid relentless heat and low rainfall, including Lake Mead in the United States and the Rhine in Germany. These extreme weather conditions have been supercharged by the human-induced climate crisis driven by the burning of fossil fuels.

Communities often depend on these water bodies for economic activity and governments have to step in with adaptation measures and relief funds, which costs huge sums of money.

China is deploying these funds and developing new sources of supply to address crop and livestock impacts. Some of the livestock have been temporarily moved to other areas, the finance ministry said earlier this week, adding that it would issue 300 million yuan ($44.30 million) in disaster relief.

To boost downstream supply, the Three Gorges Dam, China’s largest hydropower project, will also increase water flows by 500 million cubic meters over the next 10 days, the Ministry of Water Resources said on Tuesday. water.

The heat also forced authorities in southwestern Sichuan province – home to around 84 million people and a key manufacturing hub – to order all factories closed for six days this week to ease a shortage. of electricity.

The ‘longest’ and ‘strongest’ heat wave on record

China issued its highest red alert heat warning for at least 138 cities and counties across the country on Wednesday, and another 373 were placed under the second-highest amber alert, the Meteorological Administration said.

As of Monday, China’s heat wave had lasted 64 days, making it the longest in more than six decades since full records began in 1961, the National Climate Center said in a statement. He also said it was the “strongest” on record and warned it could get worse in the coming days.

“The heat wave this time is prolonged, widespread and strong in its extremities,” the statement said. “All signs combined, the heat wave in China will continue and its intensity will increase.

The heat wave also recorded the most counties and cities exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) since records began, the statement said. The number of weather stations recording temperatures of 40°C and above reached 262, also the highest. Eight reached 44C.

Persistent high temperatures are expected to continue in the Sichuan Basin and large parts of central China through August 26.

A “special case” of high pressure from the subtropical West Pacific High, stretching across much of Asia, is likely to be the cause of the extreme heat, said Cai Wenju, a researcher on the climate at CSIRO, Australia’s national science research institute.

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CNN’s Larry Register, Angela Dewan and Laura He contributed to this report.