The year 2022 will be remembered for the extreme heatwaves and droughts experienced across the world. From India and Pakistan to the US and Europe, continents have been battling extremely dry weather, followed by dangerous and dramatic flooding after months without seeing rain. Satellite images have shown China’s Yangtze River and many others have reached historic lows, a terrifying new consequence of the unfolding climate crisis.
The Yangtze provides water to 400 million people in China as well as being used for hydropower and shipping routes. It is the third longest river in the world and its basin this year has received 45 percent less rainfall than average. The record-breaking heatwave China is currently experiencing is expected to continue well into September.
Observations from space, by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, show the Yangtze and Jialing rivers, near Chongqing, in August 2020, 2021, and last week. The difference is stark. The low level of water has revealed ancient Buddha statues in China. Over in Europe, ancient hunger stones have emerged from the drying Elbe river telling people to start crying if they can see this message. In America, bodies have been emerging from the mud of Lake Mead.
The heatwave in China has seen temperatures reaching 40°C (104°F) and they have remained consistently high for almost 70 days.
The country is currently experimenting with cloud seeding, a form of geoengineering, to try and release precious rainfall into regions growing crops. This technique uses silver iodide or other crystalline particles to act as the nucleus around which raindrops can form. Scientists are divided on how effective this technique is but this has not stopped China from trying it.