China is spending almost R325-million to trigger rain artificially, which will help farmers whose crops are suffering in scorching summer weather.
In scenes reminiscent of the 1985 Kate Bush song Cloudbusting, the ministry of finance announced on Thursday that it had allocated 199-million yuan from central funds to the drought-easing measures, which involve firing silver iodide, or dry ice, into clouds.
A heat wave across central and eastern China has led to drinking water shortages for almost three million people in Jiangxi and Hubei, and has badly affected crops.
On Wednesday, Shanghai saw its hottest day since records began 140 years ago, with temperatures soaring to 40.8°C, and authorities issued a fifth red-alert warning for further extreme heat. Local media published pictures of prawns and meat cooking in pans set on manhole covers.
At least 10 people have died in the city’s heat wave, and officials say Hunan and Chongqing recorded three deaths from heatstroke each.
Electricity output soared to a historic high in China last month, which experts blamed on increased use of air conditioners. Some areas in the south have complained of power failures.
Lack of rain
Ma Xuekuan, chief forecaster of the National Meteorological Office, said that temperatures across the south should begin to drop from this week, but might remain at more than 35°C in some areas.
As some areas struggle to cope with the lack of rain and the drying up of water sources, others have endured downpours. In Heilongjiang, in the northeast of the country, workers have increased flood protection measures after weeks of heavy rain.
Last month, at least 44 people died in severe flooding and thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed after heavy rainfall in areas including Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.
Scientists say that, although individual weather events cannot be attributed to global warming, the risk of extreme weather is rising.
“The chances of high temperature and precipitation are continuously increasing in China, [but] it is hard for climate experts to predict how or in what degree,” said Lin Erda, a member of the national expert committee on climate change and an expert at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
He said he believed that artificial precipitation would be effective in some areas, but noted that it worked only under certain conditions.
“In the long run, we can only prepare to deal with climate change, and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases to slow down global warming,” he said.
Li Weijing, another climate expert, told the Xinhua state news agency that extreme weather events were becoming more frequent and that climate change would cause China’s rain belt to move north in the summer. – © Guardian News & Media 2013