Three tornadoes, record rainfall, and blistering heat waves raise climate alarm in China

Domestic News

Extreme weather has hit areas all around China in the past week, as Beijing forges on with new policies to reach its climate goals.

Illustration by Derek Zheng

China was hit by a spate of extreme weather in the last week, including three tornadoes, record-breaking rainfall, and scorching heat waves.

On Sunday, the latest tornado hit the city of Foshan in the southern Guangdong Province during a heavy rainstorm, turning over a few vehicles, tearing up trees, and disrupting power systems.

  • Two tornadoes were recorded earlier last week, one in Guangzhou in the southeastern Guangdong Province on June 16 and another in Changzhai Village in the eastern Henan Province on June 13. No casualties have been reported in all three incidents.

Meanwhile, the heaviest rainfall in six decades hit some parts of southern China and the surrounding area, with more forecasted to come: At least 52 people have been killed and 12 have gone missing so far from torrential downpours and severe storms in recent weeks, per Caixin.

  • Guangxi, Guangdong, and Fujian in southern China have reached the highest levels of precipitation since 1961, with an average rainfall of 621 millimeters (24.4 inches) between May 1 and June 15.
  • The downpours, and ensuing floods and landslides, have displaced millions of people and damaged properties in affected areas, especially in the Pearl River basin. At least seven provinces and regions in the south have issued alerts for severe storms and floods in the next 24 hours.
  • Hong Kong’s iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant — which has hosted high-profile guests, including Queen Elizabeth II and Hollywood celebrity Tom Cruise — capsized from “adverse weather” in the South China Sea just days after it was towed away due to bankruptcy.

Further north, sweltering heat has engulfed central and northern China, with temperatures expected to hit unusual highs over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) through next week.

  • Power consumption surged in large Chinese provinces north of the Yangtze River: Henan, China’s third-most-populous province, with nearly 100 million people, set a new record for electricity demand on Sunday, as homes and businesses crank up their air-conditioning to beat the heat.

China experienced a similar season of climate disasters last year that caused widespread destruction and massive costs of human life:

  • In May 2021, two tornadoes hit China’s central city of Wuhan and a town in the eastern province of Jiangsu, killing 12 and injuring over 300 people.
  • Last July, record-breaking rainfall submerged Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, and the surrounding region, killing over 300 people and resulting in a direct economic loss of around 53.2 billion yuan ($8 billion).

The pattern of extreme weather has Beijing on high alert: China released on Friday a new policy document that will ban new industrial manufacturing projects in key zones to better tackle pollution, as Beijing forges ahead to meet the country’s climate goals of peaking its carbon emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.

  • The document outlines further efforts to establish a zoning system to mitigate environmental risks and to reduce heavy industry in already polluted areas.
  • Last week, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, and various other departments, published a new plan to tackle climate change.

Nadya Yeh