The Ministry of Agriculture said this week that southern China has recorded its longest continuous period of high temperatures since records began more than 60 years ago.

This photo taken on Aug. 21, 2022 shows dry areas of a lake in Nanjing, east China’s Jiangsu Province. Photo: STR / AFP.

BEIJING, CHINA – Half of China’s vast territory is now experiencing drought, including parts of the frigid Tibetan Plateau, official data showed, with warmer temperatures forecast Thursday for hundreds of millions of people enduring the country’s hottest summer on record.

The world’s second-largest economy has been hit by record heatwaves, flash floods and droughts – phenomena that scientists say are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.

The Ministry of Agriculture said this week that southern China has recorded its longest continuous period of high temperatures since records began more than 60 years ago.

Experts say the intensity, scale and duration of the heat wave could make it one of the worst in world history.

A chart from the National Climate Center showed on Wednesday that parts of southern China – including the Tibetan Plateau – are experiencing “severe” to “extreme” drought conditions.

The worst-hit area – the Yangtze River basin, which stretches from coastal Shanghai to Sichuan province in southwest China – is home to more than 370 million people and contains several manufacturing centers, including the metropolis of Chongqing.

The China Meteorological Administration predicted high temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in Chongqing and the provinces of Sichuan, Jiangxi and Zhejiang on Thursday.

China’s State Council on Wednesday announced a 10 billion yuan ($1.45 billion) subsidy to support rice farmers struggling with a drought that authorities said posed a “serious threat” to the autumn harvest this year.

China produces more than 95 percent of the rice, wheat and corn it consumes, but a reduced crop could mean increased demand for imports in the world’s most populous country – putting additional pressure on global supplies already strained by the conflict in Ukraine.

Officials also called for “a combination of measures to increase water sources to combat the drought, primarily providing drinking water for people, providing water for agricultural irrigation,” the report added.

CCTV’s evening news broadcast on Wednesday showed trucks supplying villagers with drinking and agricultural water shortages in rural areas of Sichuan and Chongqing, with remote mountainous areas particularly hard hit.

Temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) led to blackouts in China’s industrial provinces as cities struggled to cope with a surge in power demand, caused in part by people turning on air conditioners.

Record low water levels in the Yangtze River have also put pressure on the region’s hydro generators.

The heat broke records in Sichuan province, which recorded a temperature of 43.9 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) on Wednesday afternoon, the provincial Meteorological Center said in a statement.

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