Wed, February 18, 2009
China > Mainland > Severe drought hits N China

Sandstorms may follow prolonged drought

2009-02-18 07:03:50 GMT2009-02-18 15:03:50 (Beijing Time)  China Daily

Li Weijing (L), Deputy Director-General of the National Climate Center and Zhai Panmao, Director-General of the Department of Forecasting Services and Disaster Mitigation of China Meteorological Administration are interviewed by chinadaily.com.cn on February 17, 2008. [chinadaily.com.cn]

The severe drought that plagued northern China during the past four months may breed worse sandstorms, which is sometimes seen during the coming spring as a result of rainfall shortage, a climate expert said on Tuesday.

Li Weijing, Deputy Director-General of the National Climate Center, said during an exclusive interview with chinadaily.com.cn that the country's recent dry weather would result in the formation of sandstorms, which are sometimes seen in northern China in spring.

"Forecasts say we will witness much more dust and sand than the time last year because there is less rain this year," Li said. "The snow that covered most parts of northern China last year prevented sandstorms from forming, while the drought this year will give rise to the amount of drifting sand."

However, the Deputy Director-General, added that sand alone is not enough to cause sandstorms. "Another precondition is high wind speed, which depends on the atmospheric circulation," added Li, who said the atmospheric circulation would be under close monitoring during the coming spring.

Research found that violent changes in atmospheric circulation have intensified climate change, of which the current prolonged drought as one of its forms.

China's worst drought since 1951 is still plaguing just under 100 million mu (6.6 million hectares) of farmland as of Monday. The peak of the drought was on Feb 7 when 160 million mu of cropland was affected, according to figures from the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

The four-month long dry weather finally eased to some degree when most parts of the affected area witnessed rainfalls since the end of last week as a result of artificial and natural rain.

However, Zhai Panmao, Director-General of the Department of Forecasting Services and Disaster Mitigation of China Meteorological Administration was not optimistic about further improvement. "The drought will last until March as we expect even less rainfall than in February," he said during the interview with Li by chinadaily.com.cn.

Snow and low temperatures came to the drought-hit areas in the last few days and Zhai said the administration would focus more accurate forecasts in case that the just-watered crops suffer from frost.

Zhai denied any link between artificial rain control during the Beijing Olympics last year and the current drought. "The influence of human intervention wouldn't last that long," he explained.

Beijing managed to dispel rains that could have affected the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics last August.

The director also refuted rumors that there will be floods in southern China in the same year there are droughts in north China. "It is definitely groundless," Li said. "We talk about the weather based on scientific forecasts."

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