China braces for record-breaking temperatures as major cities issue heat advisories

People sit in a shallow pool of water in the riverbed of the Jialing River, a tributary of the Yangtze, in southwestern China's Chongqing  (AP)
People sit in a shallow pool of water in the riverbed of the Jialing River, a tributary of the Yangtze, in southwestern China's Chongqing (AP)

China is gearing up for another summer of scorching temperatures as major cities issued heat advisories this week, with Beijing experiencing temperatures in the mid-thirties on Monday.

Potentially record-breaking temperatures are set to pose a threat to electricity supply, crops, and the country's economy, experts say.

The State Grid Energy Research Institute had already sounded an alarm earlier for the public to brace for restrictions on electricity supply across the entire nation this summer, state-run China Energy News reported.

Central, eastern, and southwestern provinces are likely to experience shortages during periods of peak demand, according to the institute.

Since March, China has already been experiencing heatwaves in various parts of the country including in the Yunnan province which is known historically for its mild weather.

Yunnan recently faced temperatures exceeding 40C, putting significant strain on power grids as millions of households turn on air conditioners.

The region has also experienced remarkably low rainfall. It only received 35mm of rain for the year till 20 April, according to state broadcaster CCTV. The provincial capital, Kunming, witnessed less than 8mm of rainfall, the lowest figure on record.

In response to the intensifying heat, Shandong province and Beijing have issued heat warnings in the past few days. Cities like Jinan, Tianjin, and Zhengzhou anticipate temperatures soaring as high as 37C.

The China Meteorological Administration has cautioned regions to prepare for more extreme heat this year.

This comes after a dozen countries in Asia experienced record-shattering heat in April, including China, as climate experts sound alarm over the unseasonably hot conditions.

Like neighbouring India and Thailand, China’s sporadic heatwaves are also occurring outside of the regular summer season, making it particularly concerning for the agriculture sector.

The potential damage to crops could have wide-ranging impacts, including increased food prices, exacerbated inflation, and pressure on China's economy, which is still rebounding from a three-year zero-Covid policy that hampered growth.

There is scientific consensus that the rising frequency and intensity of these untimely heatwaves is exacerbated by the climate crisis, with the situation only set to worsen as the world warms further.

This year is particularly worrying as the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said the El Niño weather phenomenon, associated with cyclical warming of the oceans, is set to take begin later this year.

"The development of an El Niño will most likely lead to a new spike in global heating and increase the chance of breaking temperature records,” WMO Secretary-General Petri Taalas said.

Additional reporting by agencies