China is experiencing a summer of contrasting extremes, with heatwaves and floods sweeping across the country.

In the north, temperatures have soared to record highs, with Beijing experiencing its hottest June in history. The heat wave has caused power outages and water shortages.

Provinces that have rarely experienced flooding, such as Heilongjiang, have fallen victim to this year’s wrath of nature. Scientists warn that these floods are an indication of the changing climate. Rising global temperatures have disturbed established weather patterns, leading to extreme events.

Climate scientists point out that these weather conditions cannot be isolated. Instead, they indicate a long-term pattern linked to climate change. The global temperature rise increases evaporation rates. The phenomenon results in intense rainfall and subsequent floods.

The Heilongjiang floods have affected the Chinese agricultural sector. Around 40% of this year’s crop was lost as the floodwaters inundated and flattened the rice fields. The flood also claimed lives. The death toll has already surpassed 81, including rescuers.

In recent years, China has witnessed a notable increase in the frequency of floods. In the 2011 summer, six to eight floods were documented each month.

In 2022, China experienced a surge in flooding events. July registered over 130 recorded floods, while August followed closely with 82 recorded floods. Dr Zhao Li from Greenpeace East Asia acknowledges that part of the increase in recorded flood numbers can be attributed to improved flood data monitoring systems in China.

A Greenpeace study, utilising data from the UN climate panel, revealed that heatwaves and extreme rainfall events could effectively lengthen the summer season by an entire month in provinces like Beijing and Shanghai. In the Pearl River delta, this extension could even exceed 40 days.

Officials from the Chinese Meteorological Administration confirm the trend of rising extreme high temperatures and heavy precipitation events since the mid-1990s.

Chinese officials have initiated mitigation strategies in response to the recent floods. One approach involves employing dams to redirect waterways and control the flow of floodwaters.

The flooding has left numerous businesses in Zhuozhou City, Hebei Province in a state of devastation. Just a few weeks ago, floodwaters and debris hindered traffic, vehicles stuck in the aftermath of the sudden and forceful surge of water. A prominent brown line marks the high-water mark.

A few months before the floods struck Zhuozhou, northern China experienced a contrasting extreme. Temperature remained exceeding 40°C (104°F) for weeks on end. This was followed by a month’s size of rain descending within a mere 24 hours.

Professor Cascade Tuholske from Montana State University notes that the key to curbing the escalating impacts of climate change lies in reducing carbon emissions. Leaving carbon dioxide in the ground rather than releasing it into the atmosphere is crucial to preventing further harm. This involves a paradigm shift in energy production and consumption, demanding a departure from fossil fuels toward renewable alternatives.