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Heat waves to menace China as almanac’s ‘big heat’ day looms

Predicted temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher coincide with the day on the traditional Chinese calendar when summer heat peaks.
A construction worker cools off during a heat wave in Chongqing, China, on July 11.
A construction worker cools off during a heat wave in Chongqing, China, on July 11.Huang Wei / AP
/ Source: Reuters

BEIJING — China will suffer the return of more heat waves over the next 10 days from east to west, with some coastal cities already on their highest alert level and inland regions warning of dam failure risks because of melting glaciers.

A sharp temperature spike is expected on Saturday, before building up into heat waves, defined as periods of atypically hot weather of three days or more. This Saturday is the day of the “big heat” in the Chinese Almanac based on the lunar calendar.

The hot spell is expected to be similar in scope to heat waves from July 5 to 17, but more regions could be hit by temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, Fu Jiaolan, chief forecaster at the National Meteorological Center, told state media.

Some cities in Zhejiang province, home to many factories and exporters, on Friday issued red alerts, the highest in a three-tier warning system, forecasting temperatures of at least 104 degrees in the next 24 hours.

The load on the national power grid could reach a new high this summer as demand for air-conditioning by homes, offices and factories surges, with safe operation facing “severe tests,” the Ministry of Emergency Management warned on Friday.

“For all of the factories in China and in Shanghai we have regulations that need to be followed,” said Leo Zhang, president of chemical product maker Sika China.

“Every year we do things to make the work more comfortable, for example giving workers ice creams when it gets too hot.”

Zhejiang, as well as parts of Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangxi and the city of Chongqing, also stand at risk of forest fires in the near term, the ministry said.

In the western region of Xinjiang, accelerated glacial melt through July 29 poses risks to rivers and dams, the China Meteorological Administration said on Friday, warning particularly of a high risk of dam failure on a tributary of the Aksu River near China’s border with Kyrgyzstan.

This round of hot weather will have “a certain degree of impact” on the melting of alpine snow and ice, the administration said.

Heat Wave Hits Chongqing
People shield from the sun with umbrellas amid soaring temperatures in Chongqing on July 13. He Penglei / China News Service via Getty Images

The heat in China this summer has been described as extreme.

From June 1 to July 20, the Yellow River and Yangtze River basins — major centers of industry and commerce — were hit by at least 10 high-temperature days more than the norm.

Heat waves have also scorched other parts of East Asia, Western Europe, North Africa and North America, sparking wildfires in many countries.

Scientists caution that climate change will only make heat waves hotter and more frequent.