Worst Heatwave in 140 Years Turns Deadly After Scorching China for More than a Month; Forecast Predicts No Relief

Heatwaves — they’re a regular risk of summer. But this year has seen a rash of particularly vicious and anomalous instances. As the Arctic baked under numerous heatwaves in which temperatures shattered the 90 degree (Fahrenheit) mark, as the US experienced some of its worst southwestern heat ever recorded, as the UK experienced record summer heat and wildfires, and as Spain sweltered as temperatures soared above 40 degrees C (above 104 F), China was experiencing its own version of a global warming amplified scorcher.

The worst heatwave in 140 years smothered about 1/3 of China, a sprawling area covering about 3 million square miles. At the heat epicenter, Shanghai, a region inhabited by 23 million people, saw daytime temperatures above 35 degrees C (95 F) for more than 25 days during July of 2013. On July 26th, Shanghai experienced an all-time record high of 106 degrees Fahrenheit (42 C), a level not reached since record keeping began in 1873.

Shanghai also reported ten deaths and far more numerous heat injuries for the month, as the hot weather intensified this Wednesday, while dozens of deaths have been reported over a large, scorched area of south-coastal China.

Throughout this week, China has been issuing its second highest national heat alert. This level requires the establishment of a 24 hour emergency operations center in order to provide emergency response and support capabilities for the hardest hit areas. The highest alert level is so extreme that China has never used it. Unfortunately, as the human-caused warming trend continues, it seems ever more likely that such a high heat category will have to be put in use.

Those living in Hangzhou, a region located about 100 miles to the southwest of Shanghai, may have already thought officials should have used such a marker as temperatures soared to above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees C), for six out of seven days over the past week. Meanwhile, Xiaoshan saw a new all-time record high temperature of 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42.2 degrees C) on Tuesday. The coastal city of Ningbo saw temperatures hit 109 degrees F on July 26th, the highest temperature ever recorded for a coastal city in all of South-East Asia.

In what has become a kind of macabre ritual in widening areas of the world affected by extreme heat, Chinese residents laid out shrimp and eggs to fry over scorching road surfaces. More ominously, the extreme heat threatened crops even as it baked rivers and lakes setting off massive fish kills from heat and anoxia. In some regions, the fish kills were so extreme that an estimated 60 percent of all fish were lost (normal summer heat may result in 5-10 percent fish losses in affected regions).

In order to protect crops and fish, China has engaged in a cloud seeding effort in hopes of spurring rainfall over scorched areas while it is urging localities and fish farmers to pump new water into ponds and rivers to enhance oxygen levels and reduce fish losses.

Heat dome, coastal flow, very high wet bulb temperatures

Coastal region of China hardest hit by heat wave.

Coastal region of China hardest hit by heat wave.

(Image source: Lance-Modis)

A dome of hot, moist air has persisted over this region for nearly a month now. Though rainfall and even flooding events have occurred due to a flow of Pacific moisture over the area and the occasional onrush of tropical cyclones, these rainfall events have done little to alleviate a combination of oppressive heat and humidity.

Flows off the ocean would normally help to somewhat alleviate the heat, but an area of typically hot summer water is now showing readings 1-2 degrees Celsius above average. This broad region of hotter than normal surface ocean waters off China now show temperatures higher than 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). Windflows issuing off these extraordinarily hot ocean surface areas are not very helpful in cooling the baking land. Worse still, the heat dome conditions — stifling airflow, concentrating heat and locking in place a layer of heat amplifying haze and smog — have persisted for much of the past month. This combination of less effective ocean cooling and heat dome conditions has resulted in a terribly severe heatwave for this coastal region.

Coastal heatwaves are particularly oppressive and potentially lethal due to the fact that humidity tends to remain higher than in more arid regions. A wet bulb temperature above 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) is considered lethal for human beings. Those living in Southeast Asia are well used to living under sweltering conditions of high heat and humidity. But as temperatures approach this human threshold (25 C + wet bulb temperature), even those acclimated are at increased risk. So both extreme heat and high humidity likely contributed to the sad and tragic dozens of instances in which lives were lost during this particular event.

The forecast for Shanghai next week calls for continuing record heatwave conditions with high temperatures ranging from 99 to 102 degrees (Fahrenheit) from Sunday through Saturday. With humidity levels near 50% this means wet bulb temperatures will approach 29-30 degrees Celsius during the hottest portions of the day. This continuation of a scorching summer heat wave will result in high risk of both heat injury and loss of life for those living in this sweltering region. With little to no relief in the forecast, this section of China is likely to remain under the fire of human-caused heating as August advances.


People Crops and Fish Suffer in China’s Heat Wave

Dozens of Deaths Blamed on China’s Heat Wave

Heat Wave Blamed for Huge Pile of Dead Fish

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  1. Another heat dome –
    Salt Lake City set or tied multiple temperature records for July 2013. July was the warmest month on record since 1874. July 2013 saw the highest average temperature for any month, and the highest average minimum temperature. July 2013 had the 3rd highest days at or above 100 degrees. (13 days) July 2013 had the 4th highest average max temperature at 97.1 degrees, and the 4th highest consecutive days at or above 100 degrees. (7 days).
    — Source: National Weather Service

    July heat a record in Reno
    Hottest July and month since 1888

    ELKO — Six days of triple-digit temperatures helped make July 2013 the warmest on record.
    The average temperature was 76.8 degrees. That is 6.6 degrees hotter than normal, according to the National Weather Service.

  2. Grateful Dead – Hell In A Bucket – Studio Version Remastered

    • Nice! Another great and entirely relevant share. 😉

      • It’s theme my song .

        • So, if you don’t mind my asking, what’s your take on the methane hydrates debate going on in the climate media now?

          Is it worth writing a blog doing a complete survey of the underlying science behind potentials for slope collapse in context to the PETM, P-T, and today as well as going through a number of the other surveys that still show potentials for moderate to significant release. Or is it just better to keep covering and providing context for ongoing events?

  3. Well I think everyone has missed the report about the Siberian Arctic Yedoma permafrost carbon release 10x faster than expected ……………..
    Siberian Arctic Yedoma permafrost carbon release 10x faster than expected

    Read that , and tell me what you think . I posted it 11 months ago. I remember all this , and place it in context.

    • Well that is a strong amplifying feedback. But the article shows that most of the release from the study is coming as CO2 — at 44 MT. The land permafrost is issuing far more carbon than expected. The article notes that about 1.1 MT is as methane and that the submerged carbon will likely emit as methane due to anoxic conditions.

      • Then we are well and truly screwed , aren’t we?

        • We expect to see some amplifying feedbacks as time moves forward. In my view, we are well and truly screwed if we can’t swiftly reduce CO2 emissions. Waiting til we get to 450, 500, 550 ppm + is Avery bad idea, in my view.

  4. The highest concentration of this carbon can be found in an even smaller area, called the Yedoma* permafrost, named after a North East Siberian town in the middle of thick loess deposits in North East Siberia – permanently frozen soils that have accumulated carbon for as long as the Pleistocene has lasted – and which have been able to withstand the milder climates of the interglacials – like the pre-industrial Holocene – but not the present warming, which happens at least twice as fast in the High North as elsewhere.

  5. The Yedoma is the entire continental shelf of Siberia.

    • So when Igor Semiletov reports there are kilometer wide methane features out gassing on the sea floor , believe him .

  6. The first tine I ever went on the net was to follow B-15 , the largest ice berg ever seen by man. It was as large as the state of Delaware. It’s daughters still float in the southern oceans.

  7. ‘ The land permafrost is issuing far more carbon than expected.”
    No shit . And the sea floor is rockin’ and rollin’.

  8. I read your thread about how we were old white men with no idea what we were talking about . Well, I’ll beat ever denier like a baby seal.

  9. Tyoo – every

  10. Here’s what I know, your use of the term ‘heat dome’ , the atmosphere is really getting thicker over these giant highs. And the lows spinning around the are getting lower.

  11. So do I understand the earth ? Or am I just another fool on the web ?

  12. TJ in Boulder UT

     /  August 3, 2013

    Gentlemen – Thanks for you clear headed commentary. I’m finding this site a much more comprehensive discussion of issues than the newly remodeled Climate Progress. My own background is in Social science, history, sociology and & psychology. From the perspective of human response to this climate crisis I believe the majority of the population is in massive denial. I’ll believe we are making progress on reducing CO2 when we outlaw NASCAR.

  13. Austria Breaks Heat Record. U.S. July Monthly Heat Records

    Austria broke its national heat record on Saturday (August 3rd) when the temperature peaked at 39.9°C (103.8°F) at Dellach im Drautal in Carinthia State. The previous record was also held by Dellach when it reached 39.7° (103.4°F) on July 27, 1983. The heat wave in Austria will continue this weekend and higher temperatures may be measured Sunday or Monday.

  14. Check out the extended forecast for Shanghai –

  15. Reblogged this on Climate Force.

  16. Robert, just a thought but you are welcome to post your climate change blog posts at – if you’re interested contact me please, cheers.

  17. Looking at todays Terra pass over Russia , the same area we’ve been watching . The fires are moving north , and this worst image we’ve seen this summer :
    05:05 UTC

  18. There’s a lot of tundra burning now. And the fires are still marching north .

    • One more thing, the Russians never had a “Smoky Bear Theory” about wild land fires. They never when out and fought fires like we did. So when one hears that the fires in the US are worst because we fought fires , ask the question:
      Why the hell is the Russia tundra, burning like a camp fire marshmellow ?

    • By the way, the last image, you don’t want to be under that dense grey smoke at the bottom frame , if you breath oxygen for a living.

      • Looks amazingly brutal. Will be even worse than last year if this keeps up.

      • “They don’t even have an official fire service.”
        Even worse, they took the real right wing theory , if a fire burns near you, you’re on your own baby.

        • Last year, they had to call up thousands, mobilizing a force larger than that of many country’s militaries, to combat these Arctic blazes. The situation for this year is clearly out of control.

  19. I’ve watched the MODIS for some years , this season will break records in Russia. I’ve never seen smoke like this , and fires so far North.

    The Tundra is on Fire
    By Colorado Bob

    Sat Sep 29, 2007 8:39 AM

    344 sq. miles The largest tundra fire on the North slope in 5,000 years.

    • That one was a beast. Some of these appear to be of rival size.

      • Yes and that one burned for 2 months , my post was near it’s end . These fires started 3 weeks before that beginning . A mind boggling amount of tundra is burning 3 or 4 feet deep into the ground. That’s all that thick grey smoke that isn’t being moved by the air. It burns all night when the winds lay down , and floats 10 feet above the ground . And the high pressure keeps it in place.
        It is hell on Earth if you’re a mammal near it.

      • ‘is burning 3 or 4 feet deep into the ground. That’s all that thick grey smoke that isn’t being moved by the air. It burns all night when the winds lay down ‘

        Real incomplete combustion , very smoky lots of nasty things in the smoke.

        You yourself documented the heat that dried all this out.

        • That is just nasty. It’s got to have a pretty terrible impact on the tundra. On some of these satellite passes, I see enormous scorch marks left behind by these giants.

  20. When people say we are unaccountable for what we write , and that we have no science to back us up. Well , I for one, have – Articles: 111 … Seeds: 2874 at Newsvine
    And everyone holds up. Rather well.
    As my motto says there :

    Student of the Natural Sciences and Human Folly

    • We’re all accountable and, it is my view, that we’re all in this mess together. So, I think, it helps more if we work together (gung ho).

      My personal opinion is that division is being sewn over an issue in which professionals still disagree. One of the criticisms of science is that there is often little in the way of consensus on a particular new or cutting edge issue. Over time, though, bad theories fail and better theories provide a more complete view of reality. The fact that no one scientific theory is an entirely perfect representation is a paradox that most laymen have difficulty with and one that other tends to create human fodder out of individual scientists who get too entrenched in a single set of views. In covering science, it is best to attempt to avoid this particular mess by not choosing sides or urging moderation until more data can be gathered.

      My view comes from an analysis/ emerging threats perspective. I consider the data available to determine risk. As such, I have the luxury of not having to hitch my cart to a single scientific point of reference. The ball that I need to keep looking at is the overall risk given the best set of information available.

      For this part, I feel I have a role to play. And I will probably generate criticism in doing it. So be it.

      As for what you’re doing — amplifying the signal of a major ongoing problem — I think it is extraordinarily valuable and that you should continue, regardless of any criticism you may receive. I certainly appreciate the service you provide as the current pace of events is very rapid and it’s difficult to keep track of all that is happening. Having someone so in touch with this pulse of news is certainly very, very helpful. So please don’t let the bastards get you down 😉

  21. Have a good night. If you can.

  22. I’m about leave, I’m so glad I met you, ‘am so l glad, I bumped into you. “

  23. I ain’t dead yet.

  1. Another Week of Climate Disruption News, August 4, 2013 – A Few Things Ill Considered
  2. Drought, Burning Rings of Fire out West, Severe Flooding in the East: How Climate Change and a Mangled Jet Stream Wrecked US Weather | robertscribbler

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