The two-month-long stretch of hot weather baking large swaths of China is, all things considered, the world’s most extreme heat wave on record, one climatologist argues.
The country has kept national weather records since 1961, and this summer’s hot spell marks the longest continuous period of high temperatures that southern China has seen since then, Agence France-Presse reported Thursday.
Climatologist and weather historian Maximiliano Herrera believes that when all factors are taken into account, it’s the most severe heat wave recorded anywhere.
“This combines the most extreme intensity with the most extreme length with an incredibly huge area all at the same time,” Herrera told New Scientist on Tuesday. “There is nothing in world climatic history which is even minimally comparable to what is happening in China.”
From the nation’s Sichuan province in the southwest to Jiangsu on the eastern coast, temperatures have routinely surpassed 104 degrees Fahrenheit, The New York Times reported earlier this month. On at least one day, the temperature in Chongqing municipality hit 113 degrees.
Severe drought has dried up rivers, lakes and other bodies of water ― including reservoirs generating hydropower that Sichuan relies on for most its electricity, CNN reported. As a result, the province of 80 million people has faced massive power cuts. Factories have closed, public transportation has run in darkness and farmers are seeing devastating crop losses.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is experiencing its own punishing drought conditions, with the Southwest facing what researchers believe is the driest spell in at least 1,200 years.
Scientists have warned for years that human-caused climate change is fueling catastrophic disasters across the globe, including extreme heat and drought.
“We’re looking at a long-term, undeniable trend,” climate scientist Astrid Caldas told HuffPost last year. “Imagine what we’re in for if warming continues unabated.”