China Drought Affects Millions

By By Jim Andrews, Senior Meteorologist
June 02, 2011, 4:35:25 AM EDT

China's biggest lakes and rivers have shrunk as a major drought has persisted in the populous middle of the nation.

Xinhuanet reported that 35 million people have been affected in some way, and economic losses have reached nearly 15 billion yuan, or $2.3 billion.

The central provinces of Hubei, Hunan, Anhui, Jiangxi and Jiangsu have been hard hit by a shortfall of rain, amounting from 40 to locally more than 60 percent of normal since the first of 2011.


Google Maps image.

According to data accessed by, Wuhan, Hubei, right in the heart of the drought area, has had only 6.6 inches of rain, or 35 percent of the normal amount, since Jan. 1.

In neighboring Hunan, Dongting Lake, China's second largest, has shriveled, its water level reaching a record low two weeks ago. Fishermen have had to seek work elsewhere, reported Xinhuanet.

Poyang Lake has also shrunk markedly, its volume being only a small fraction of normal for May. Located in Jiangsu, Poyang is the nation's biggest freshwater lake.

In both lakes, stretches of lake beds have become "grasslands".

Low water on the mighty Yangtze River has already halted shipping along a vital stretch of the river. Authorities have been forced to tap into the vast reserve of water held back by the enormous Three Gorges Dam to stave off further fall in the river level down stream.

However, increased water flow at the dam will tend to depleted its stored water. Barring meaningful rainfall in the drought areas, authorities would have to limit further releases after June 10, according to China Daily.

Forecasters at foresee continued drought for at least another week in areas northward from the Yangtze. Farther south, outbreaks of moderate to heavy rain before the end of this week should help to lessen the drought, as they begin to lift water levels on streams and rivers.

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