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China issues highest heat alert for almost 70 cities in second heatwave this month

By Tara Subramaniam

Severe heat warnings were issued for almost 70 Chinese cities, where temperatures were expected to exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) Monday, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

Another 393 Chinese cities and counties were forecast to swelter in temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and above, the administration added.

Temperatures in China have been rising faster than the global average and the latest heat wave has raised new concerns about the pace of global warming.

The latest heatwave, which is defined as periods of atypically hot weather lasting three days or more, is the second this month. Average daily temperatures are the highest since 1961, and on Sunday, 13 national weather stations in Zhejiang and Fujian provinces reached or surpassed local temperature records.

The National Meteorological Center’s Chief Forecaster, Fu Jiaolan said the latest heatwave is expected to be similar to one that lasted almost two weeks from July 5-17, according to state media. But this severe weather will likely impact more people as temperatures are expected to rise to the “red alert” level in more regions.

China operates a four-tier weather warning system, where red alerts indicate temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius or higher, orange for 35 degrees Celsius or higher, followed by yellow and blue.

As of Monday, 67 cities had issued red alerts. In Guangzhou, the local meteorological bureau expects the hot weather to last 23 days, which would be the southern Chinese city’s longest heatwave since 1951.

Chen Chunyan, chief expert at the Xinjiang Meteorological Observatory, told state media Sunday that the long duration of this heatwave has accelerated the melting of glaciers in the mountain ranges that border the region.

“Continued high temperature has accelerated glacial melting in mountainous areas, and caused natural disasters such as flash floods, mudslides, and landslides in many places,” Chen said.

This unusual weather is not limited to Xinjiang, which is home to a large desert region and is used to hot temperatures. Since May, dozens of people in southern China have been killed and millions have been displaced due to severe flooding and landslides.

Coupled with the heat waves, the extreme weather could have significant economic repercussions for China.

Floods, droughts and tropical cyclones are estimated to cost China about $238 billion annually, according to a report released last year by the World Meteorological Organization.

And Chen said that if the heat wave continues in Xinjiang, it could also harm cotton production, an additional blow to China’s economy as it continues to contend with a pandemic-induced slowdown.

China is the world’s second largest cotton producer and 85% of the cotton produced in China comes from Xinjiang.

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CNN’s Nectar Gan and Yong Xiong contributed reporting.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Asia/Pacific

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