What’s Behind China’s Recent Record Temperatures?

By Alistair Baker-Brian, July 18, 2022

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Hot weather at this time of the year in China is not unexpected. After all, we have just entered sanfu (三伏), three 10-day periods of sweltering heat for the Middle Kingdom. 

READ MORE: Explainer: Sanfu the Hottest Days of the Year

However, this year is a little hotter than usual, with records being broken here, there and everywhere in a heatwave which has affected around 900 million people. 

READ MORE: Heatwave To Affect 900 Million People in China

In Shanghai, temperatures reached 40.9 degrees Celsius on July 10, the highest recorded since 1873. 

Elsewhere in the country, weather stations in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces recorded temperatures of over 40 degrees. Meanwhile, in Sichuan, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Henan, Hebei and elsewhere, high temperature warnings of over 40 degrees have recently been in place for 10 consecutive days. 

From the beginning of June until July 13, only Heilongjiang and Liaoning province in Northeast China have escaped high temperatures warnings. 

So, why the record-breaking heat? 

Yuan Yuan is a director at China’s National Climate Center, an organization responsible for analysing climate change patterns and the subsequent potential occurrence of natural disasters. 

Yuan explains that in June 2022, the global average temperature rose by 0.4 degrees, the highest rise since 1979. Recent extreme heat in many places in the northern hemisphere has been caused by a combined strengthening of high pressure over the hemisphere's subtropical region, including across the western North Pacific subtropical belt and the Atlantic high pressure belt. 

Under this high-pressure, the air is relatively dry and clouds are not easily formed, resulting in frequently high temperatures. 

Make no mistake, China is not the only country in the northern hemisphere feeling the heat right now. Much of the southern United States has also seen temperatures exceeding 40 degrees; forest fires have broken out in Spain, France, Portugal and elsewhere on continental Europe; and in the United Kingdom, it may reach 40 degrees for the first time ever on record. 

Good to know we’re not the only ones being sizzled right now. 

[Cover image via Weibo/@思思爱]

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