Government braces for stormy weather
Meteorologists are working on a nationwide plan to combat the impact of extreme weather conditions that threaten both the economy and society as a whole.
Zheng Guoguang, director of the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), said the plan, which runs until 2020, will focus on disaster warning, information release and emergency response, technological support, legislation and standard making, and public education.
"All our efforts are designed to make our weather forecasts more accurate," he said.
Zheng was speaking in Beijing yesterday at a conference on weather-related disaster relief and prevention.
Under the draft plan, eight key projects will be developed to improve the way in which weather disasters are handled.
These include the establishment of new weather radar network, completion of the Fengyun weather satellite system, the development of a weather observation and disaster pre-warning project, and the optimization of the climate change observation network and related services.
Climate Change to Be Better Monitored
The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) yesterday announced the completion of a national climate observation network to help mitigate global warming.
CMA director Zheng Guoguang said the network would collect accurate information about climate change.
"Climate change is threatening the environment, state security and economic development," Zheng said.
Responding to a UN plan, China's first climate observation network was set up in 1997. Seven departments - meteorology, water affairs, agriculture, environmental protection, forestry, ocean and scientific research - joined the network.
The network set up 16 key observation areas, Zhang Renhe, director of the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences Director, said.
Autumn Harvest Under Severe Threat
The country's top planner yesterday warned that this year's extreme weather conditions, plant diseases and insect infestations could seriously affect the autumn harvest.
About 11.5 million hectares of arable land have been hit by drought this year, 2.14 million more than the average for the past few years, Ma Kai, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said.
Figures from the Ministry of Water Resources also show that floods have submerged about 9.7 million hectares, pushing the total amount of disaster-hit land to more than one-sixth of the country's 120 million hectares of arable land.
The situation could be even worse in the autumn if the widespread flooding and droughts persist, Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei told a press conference on Tuesday.
Torrential Rains Cause Reservoirs to Overflow
Continuous torrential rains have caused more than half of the large- and medium-sized reservoirs to overflow in east China's Shandong Province, local authorities said on Sunday.
The province saw an average rainfall of 532 mm during this year's flood season, or 17 percent higher than normal, according to the Shandong provincial hydrology and water resources bureau.
As of 6:00 AM on Sunday, the province's 39 large- and medium-sized reservoirs had stored close to 4.2 billion cubic meters of water, or about 1.4 billion cubic meters more than that for the same period in previous years, and 24 of the reservoirs have overflowed, a bureau spokesman said, providing no details about whether residents would be affected or not.
Heavy rains have also made the rivers swollen in Shandong and damaged levees and bridges, the spokesman said.
China has suffered from abnormal and extreme weather which led to fatal floods, landslides and lingering drought in a number of provinces this year. The disasters left 1,279 people dead and 239 others missing in the first seven months, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has said.
Freaky Weather Not Caused by Human Activity: Official
Abnormal weather fronts that have battered China of late mostly stem from national particular geographic climate conditions, according to Gu Wanlong, director assistant of the China Meteorological Administration Climate Center.
Some experts have sought to point the finger at global warming for the recent extreme weather conditions, claiming that the unbalanced distribution of rainstorms, sky-high temperatures, prolonged periods of drought and powerful typhoons are proof of the realities of climate change.
However, according to Gu, China's rainy seasons are dictated by the movements of monsoons and these can cause either massive flooding or crippling drought.
"The strength of the summer monsoon determines the location of main rainbelt," said Gu. "This year, the summer monsoon hit China later than in previous years, leading the rain to slowly drift northwards along the Yangtze River and Huaihe River. Therefore, most of the rainstorms were centered on the Huaihe River instead of the middle and lower reaches of Yangtze River."
Similarly, Sichuan's rainstorms and drought can also be blamed on sub-tropical weather front movements, leisurely shifting north from the southern oceans. "Therefore, once warm and moist air encounters cold air, precipitations will occur," explained Gu.
Glaciers Melting at Alarming Speed
The Tibetan and Xinjiang glaciers -- the major source of Asia's biggest rivers -- have melted by up to an alarming 17 percent at certain spots in the past four decades.
In interviews with China Daily, Chinese scientists have revealed that the world's highest glaciers are melting at a much faster rate than previously believed.
The meltdown, caused by global warming, is seriously threatening the survival of major rivers, including the Yangtze, the Mekong, the Yellow River, the Indus and the Ganges, which originate from these glaciers.
The findings were made in an ongoing study of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which began in early 2000s and covered more than 20,000 sq km, or about 40 percent of the glaciers in the country.
About 4.2 percent of the glaciers have disappeared since the previous survey was carried out between 1956 and 1980, said Liu Shiyin, a researcher at the CAS' renowned Cold and Arid Regions Environment and Engineering Research Institute in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province.
Algae Bloom Threatens Water for Millions
A blue-green algae bloom is threatening the water quality of a lake that provides drinking water for over 5 million people in the city of Wuxi, Jiangsu Province.
Local residents flocked to buy bottled water and bread after a blue-green algae bloom appeared on Tuesday in Taihu Lake, making the water smell unpleasant.
The price of an 18-liter bottle of water sold by street peddlers had risen from eight yuan to 50 yuan on Wednesday night.
Initial investigations show the water level of Taihu Lake is at its lowest in 50 years this summer due to continuous high temperatures and lack of rain, which caused an excess of nutrients in the water.
The city government is planning to artificially induce rain on Thursday or Friday to dilute lake water, and the provincial government has agreed to divert more water from the Yangtze River to the lake.
Local authorities are closely monitoring the supplies of the bottled water in 10 supermarkets and have allocated more bottled water from neighboring regions.
The affected population is mostly in the city districts, but the local government is still counting the exact number who have been affected by the blue-green algae bloom.
Local authorities are closely monitoring the water quality around the clock and Yang Weize, secretary of the Wuxi Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, vowed on Wednesday to guarantee safe drinking water "at all costs."
(China.org.cn September 26, 2007)