China has been left dealing with the effects of the worst heat wave ever recorded – with parched lakes and rivers showing just how much the drought has affected the country.
Stretching more than 70 days so far, China’s record heatwave has started to show signs of abating. However the long-term impacts are only now beginning to make themselves known.
Farmers are assessing the damage caused by the prolonged drought, and the government is urging them to replant or switch crops where they can.
Normally surrounded by water in August, a pagoda-topped island in Poyang Lake is now fully visible.
Poyang is known as the "kidney" because of the role it plays in regulating the flow of the Yangtze river in central Jiangxi province, taking on floodwaters in the normally wet summer and then receding dramatically during the dry autumn and winter.
But the lake has shrunk far earlier than usual and is now just a fifth of its size of a few months ago.
The south-western region of Chongqing has been hit especially hard, with one resident, Zhang Ronghai, saying that both his water and his power had been cut after a four-day mountain fire in the district of Jiangjin.
"People need to go to a power centre over six miles away to charge their phones," Zhang told New Scientist.
Authorities across the Yangtze river basin are desperately trying to limit the damage from the drought, while around 30% of the 600 weather stations along the Yangtze recorded their highest temperatures ever last week.
Dr Buwen Dong, a meteorologist at the University of Reading, described China’s heatwave as “unprecedented” and the country’s “worst ever”.
He said: “The combined intensity of regional heatwave event of China in 2022 has reached the strongest since the complete meteorological observation record existed.”
He warned that climate change means that “heatwaves are occurring in a warmer background and so are to increase in frequency and intensity, and more likely become extreme”.
Dong added: “With additional warming to the world’s climate, the frequency and intensity of heatwaves are projected to get worse in future.
“The more widespread, long‐lasting, and severe heat waves in China would impose higher risks for human health, agriculture, energy, and environment if there is no sufficient adaptation.
“There is emergent need to cut emissions of greenhouse gases to limit future damages caused by this kind of event.”