Many areas in the Yangtze have initiated weather-regulation programs, but operations in some drought-stricken areas of the river basin have been put on hold because cloud cover is so thin.
The drought in the Yangtze river basin “has adversely affected the drinking water security of rural people and animals and the growth of crops,” the Ministry of Water Resources said Wednesday.
On Wednesday, central China’s Hubei province became the latest to announce it will seed clouds using silver iodide sticks to encourage precipitation.
Silver iodide rods, typically cigarette-sized, are drawn into existing clouds to help form ice crystals. The crystals then help the cloud produce more rain, making the moisture content heavier and increasing the likelihood of release.
Cloud seeding has been practiced since the 1940s, and China has the largest program in the world. It used seeding prior to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to provide dry air for the event, and the technique can also be used to soften snowfall or hail.
At least 4.2 million people in Hubei have been affected by a severe drought since June, the Hubei Provincial Department of Emergency Management said on Tuesday. There, more than 150,000 people have difficulty accessing drinking water, and nearly 400,000 hectares of crops have been damaged by high temperatures and drought.
Communities often rely on these water bodies for economic activities, and governments have to intervene with adaptation measures and aid funds that cost large sums of money.
China is deploying such funds and developing new sources of supply to deal with the impacts on crops and livestock. The Ministry of Finance said earlier this week that some animals were temporarily transferred to other regions, adding that it would raise 300 million yuan ($44.30 million) for disaster relief.
The Ministry of Water Resources said Tuesday it will increase water discharge by 500 million cubic meters over the next 10 days to increase the downstream supply of Three Gorges Dam, China’s largest hydroelectric project.
‘Longest’ and ‘strongest’ heatwave on record
The Meteorological Administration said China issued the highest red alert warning for at least 138 cities and counties across the country on Wednesday, with 373 people placed under the second-highest orange alert.
As of Monday, China’s heat wave lasted 64 days, the longest in more than six decades since full records began in 1961, the National Climate Center said in a statement. He also said the record was “the strongest” and warned it could get worse in the coming days.
“This time the heat wave is prolonged, broad in scope and strong in the extremities,” the statement said. “Taken all signs together, the heatwave in China will continue and increase in severity.”
The heatwave also recorded the most counties and cities to exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) since records began, according to the statement. The number of meteorology stations recording temperatures of 40C and above reached 262, the highest. Eight reached 44C.
Persistently high temperatures are expected to continue through August 26 in the Sichuan Basin and large parts of central China.
Cai Wenju, climate researcher at Australia’s national scientific research institute CSIRO, said a “special case” of high pressure from the Western Pacific subtropical highs that spanned much of Asia could be the cause of the extreme heat.
CNN’s Larry Register, Angela Dewan, and Laura contributed to this report.
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