China heat wave: Beijingers turn to cold green soup, cushion fans

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China’s national weather forecaster issued an unconventional outlook this week: “Hot, really hot, really hot [melting smiley face]” he wrote Tuesday night on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter.

It was vague, but it wasn’t wrong. The temperature in Beijing hit 106 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday, a public holiday for the Dragon Boat Festival. This was the highest June registration since 1961.

Authorities on Friday issued the highest heat warning for the next three days, warning that temperatures would likely remain above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) through Sunday. Although the heat may subside for a day or two, it is expected to rise again next week.

Visiting the Great Wall was “like being in an oven,” said Lin Yun-chan, a graduate student from Taiwan on her first trip to Beijing.

Most of the visitors to the landmark were gathered in the shade under trees eating ice cream. Even the security guards were taking turns jumping in and out of their air cabin.

And it’s not just Beijing. Seventeen weather stations, mostly in the northeast, reported higher highs on Thursday.

The heat wave is almost the only thing anyone can talk about.

An article from the state-run Science and Technology Daily, not usually known for its viral content, about 2023 possibly being the world’s hottest year ever movement on Weibo.

A journalist from Beijing made a video of his attempt to fry an egg on the sidewalk, resulting – 40 minutes later – in a rather hard yolk. Another clip from Hebei, the province near Beijing, showed burnt clothes that the loader said were accidentally burnt when left outside in a metal basin.

Much of the discussion online is about food. People are sharing advice on the most hydrating snacks for the hot weather: mung bean soup and sour plum drink are popular choices.

“I don’t know which kind of sticky rice dumpling is best for cooling,” wrote musician, actor and teen idol Zhang Zhenyuan to his 15 million followers on Weibo, referring to the desserts covered in bamboo leaves eaten to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival.

Entrepreneurs were looking for ways to capitalize on the heat wave: one fan promoted seat cushions designed to combat sweat piles, while tour companies pitched tours to the south of the country, which is usually hotter but not so much at the moment.

The arrival of historic heat so early in the year has led many to fear a repeat – or worsening – of last week’s streak of unrelenting high temperatures which experts have called unprecedented in scale and length.

Already, hospitals are reporting an increase in patients with heat stroke and at least one death.

A 68-year-old man was taken to hospital on Sunday after he was found unconscious at his home, where he had not turned on the air conditioner, the Beijing Evening News reported. One main city doctor told the local media that they were seeing a frequency of cases of heat which usually do not occur until July or August.

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The China Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday urged residents to take precautions by limiting time outside and avoiding physical exercise. A music festival scheduled to take place in Beijing’s Olympic Forest Park has been canceled due to the baking heat.

That advice may be more difficult to follow for those taking part in frenetic outdoor races to celebrate the holidays – although, thankfully for the paddlers and crowds of spectators, the most common occurrences are in southern China where the temperature is, surprisingly, less severe.

Pressure is piling up on China’s electricity producers as higher power demand threatens to overload the grid. Authorities earlier this month conducted drills on how to avoid a repeat of last year’s electricity rationing, when severe drought dried up reservoirs and left hydropower stations idle in the southwest.

The frequency of extreme weather events in recent years has raised awareness of climate change in China.

Once rarely reported in the official media, the dangers of a rapidly warming atmosphere are now being talked about. That move followed scenes like the massive downpour that flooded Zhengzhou in 2021, when people were half-submerged in a subway car or died in flooded subways.

But environmental activists remain concerned that the Chinese government’s fear of power outages has slowed the move to renewable energy sources. Beijing remains convinced that coal-fired generators – the main source of greenhouse gas emissions – are the only way to ensure an adequate energy supply.

Partly out of energy security concerns and partly as a way to stimulate the economy, China approved more coal-fired power plants in the first three months of this year than in any year since 2015, even as the most of the rest of the world ends. use of polluting fossil fuels.

Critics of that move argue that China should address distorted incentives and a lack of flexibility in the power grid, which, if fixed, would produce enough wind and solar power to avoid shortages. and a more cost-effective solution than coal.

Vic Chiang in Taipei and Theodora Yu in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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