This year China has faced greater risks of being hit by extreme
weather such as drought, floods and typhoons than at any time in
the past decade due to climate change, Zheng Guoguang, Director of
the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), said during an
interview with China.org.cn on September 24.
Zheng cited frequent typhoons that have hit Zhejiang Province, in east China, with total
economic losses exceeding 13 billion yuan (US$1.7 billion) as
examples. More than 30 people died and 50 remained missing after a
rainstorm hit east China's Shandong Province on August 18, with estimated
economic losses at 73.6 billion yuan (US$9.73 billion). Heavy
rainstorms also hit the cities of Urumqi, Chongqing, Xi'an and
Beijing. The worst rainstorm in over 50 years caused heavy flooding
on parts of the Huaihe River.
Wipha, the 13th tropical storm of the year, hit Zhejiang on
September 18. "However, effective preparations and accurate weather
forecasts helped to greatly reduce the number of casualties. Only
seven people died from landslides triggered by the heavy rain and
such low casualties have been rare for such severe storms," said
Zheng. "Economic losses from Wipha are estimated at about 8 billion
yuan (US$1.06 billion), much less than that from Typhoon Saomai
last year (more than 19.6 billion yuan or US$2.61 billion)."
Since 1998 when the Yangtze River experienced a historically
large flood, the central government has invested heavily in the
national meteorological observatory and forecasting infrastructure
construction. "China's meteorological satellites were able to track
Wipha every 15 minutes" (compared to the one hour frequency of
previous storms), helping to chart its movement, Zheng stated.
"Moreover, we have imported 112 sets of up-to-date meteorological
Doppler radar system from the United States that accurately monitor
airflows among atmospheric layers, thus improving weather
forecasting and our disaster early-warning capabilities," he said.
"Such accurate forecasting is a basic premise for being able to
effectively guard against the most violent typhoons."
The central government has also invested huge funds in
developing the country's meteorological satellites over the past
decades, Zheng said. To date, China has launched four polar orbit
meteorological satellites and four geostationary ones. A fifth
geostationary satellite is expected to be launched next year.
Meanwhile, the country is constructing a new generation
meteorological satellite receiving and broadcasting system, Zheng
said, adding: "Telecommunications services, the Internet, radio and
TV departments should work together to ensure that people can
receive instant meteorological early-warning information. For
example, we have built maritime meteorological warning facilities
in Zhoushan of Zhejiang Province, Dongshan of Fujian Province, and Shidao of Shandong
Province to provide fishermen with instant, free meteorological
Zheng agreed that a recent rat scourge around Dongting Lake and
an outbreak of algae in Taihu Lake could be blamed on climate
change. "Because of unusually high temperatures and low rainfall
around the Taihu Lake area this year, the lake's water volume has
greatly reduced. At the same time, the density of zinc, nitrogen
and phosphorus increased comparatively, easily leading to an
outbreak of algae. The high temperatures and drought around
Dongting Lake also created conditions for the rat
The average temperature in July this year in China was 1.4 degrees
centigrade higher than in normal years, and the highest ever
recorded. "High temperatures also lead to thunder, lightning and
consequently frequent outbreaks of forest fires," he explained. For
example, fire ravaged 16 sq. km. of the country's largest forest
zone on northeast China's Greater Hinggan Mountains in
mid-September. An initial investigation showed the fire had been
triggered by lightning.
Statistics from CMA showed that 19,982 accidents involving
lightning strikes occurred in 2006 across the country, claiming 717
lives and injuring 640 people. Lightning had claimed 403 lives by
July 27 of this year, killed 109 in August and 147 in the first 18
days of September.
"Meteorological departments should regularly test
lightning-preventive facilities and disseminate general information
among the public," said Zheng. In early July, the Ministry of
Education and the emergency management office of the State Council
jointly launched a campaign to provide 420,000 high schools and
primary schools nationwide with cartoons and illustrations that
taught students how to avoid lightning strikes.
Returning to his original theme, the CMA Director said that
China should learn from the advanced experience and tap the
efficient technologies developed by Western countries in the fields
of meteorological forecasting.
Zheng said that his administration was working on a nationwide
plan to combat the impact of extreme weather conditions. "The plan,
which runs until 2020, will focus on disaster warning, information
release and emergency response, technological support, legislation,
the setting of standards and public education."
Zheng noted that the experience of dealing with the 2003 SARS
outbreak has taught the CMA and other government departments to
develop instant response systems for unexpected emergencies.
"Meteorological departments have created emergency plans to deal
with unexpected meteorological disasters. Regarding global warming,
such emergency plans have provided a good warning basis for people
to deal with expected incidents."
Responding to the charges made by some Western media blaming
developing countries (especially China) for damaging the
environment via greenhouse gas emissions, he stated that the chief
offenders were actually the developed countries.
"They have discharged greenhouse gases unrestrainedly over the
past 50 years, when global warming became clearly evident. To date,
the per capita greenhouse gas emission volume generated by
developed countries is still comparatively large. Developing
countries started later in the race for industrialization. The per
capita greenhouse gas emission volume is four tons annually in
China, or a quarter of that of the United States. So, it is the
developed countries who should be taking the lead in reducing
greenhouse gas emissions."
(China.org.cn by Li Jingrong, September 26, 2007)