Northern China braces for record high temperatures in major heat wave

By Nectar Gan and Joyce Jiang, CNN

Hong Kong CNN  —  A major heat wave is forecast to spread across large swathes of northern China this week, bringing record high temperatures to some areas, according to China’s meteorological authorities.

The heat wave, which began on Saturday, has already triggered government weather alerts and follows the country’s hottest spring on record.

The national observatory on Monday issued an orange alert for high temperatures – the second most severe warning – as sweltering heat engulfed the country’s north.

On Sunday, in the coastal province of Shandong, seven national meteorological stations recorded the highest temperature for early June, while temperatures in northern Hebei province and the western region of Xinjiang soared above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the National Meteorological Center (NMC).

The heat wave is forecast to further expand in scope in the coming days, the NMC said in a statement.

Local governments have also issued warnings.

Beijing on Saturday raised its first yellow alert for high temperatures this summer, warning residents to avoid going outdoors during the hottest parts of the day.

The alert came as tens of thousands of high school graduates in the Chinese capital were finishing their national college entrance exam – a two-day, highly competitive test known as the “gaokao.” A school in Beijing’s Chaoyang district handed out free ice cream to parents waiting outside the gate in the grueling heat, state media reported.

Zheng Zhihai, chief forecaster at the National Climate Center, told the state-run Global Times that temperatures in most parts of China were expected to be higher than usual this summer, and the number of high-temperature days would also be greater than usual.

Zhong said the high temperatures were linked to El Niño, a natural climate pattern marked by warmer than average ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.

China saw its hottest spring on record this year. The national average temperature between March and May reached 12.3 degrees Celsius, the highest since records began in 1961, with 12 national meteorological stations registering temperatures reaching or surpassing records, according to the National Climate Center.

Meanwhile, parts of southern China have been grappling with weeks of downpours. In Guangdong province, record rainfall unleashed deadly floods in April, with one tribunal of the Pearl River experiencing the earliest arrival of its annual flood season since records began in 1998.

China also saw its hottest year on record in 2023, as the world’s biggest polluter confronted a series of relentless heat waves and other extreme weather events driven by the human-caused climate crisis.

The average temperature in China last year stood at 10.7 degrees Celsius – the highest since records began in 1961, according to the National Climate Center, state-run news agency Xinhua reported. It broke the previous record of 10.5 degrees set in 2021.

China’s exceptional warmth echoed global trends – with scientists confirming that 2023 was officially the hottest year on record, the result of the combined effects of El Niño and climate change.

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