Frightening New Extremes from Germany to China Demand Strong Actions
By Yuanchao Xu 24 August, 2021
Record-breaking extreme weather events in Germany & China - what do they mean? CWR's Xu explains
Last year, we wrote an article discussing the concept of return period for extreme weather, in which we expressed our concern over the fact that the climate is moving to greater extremes. However, we did not expect it to happen so soon. This July, two back-to-back extreme events occurred separately in Germany and Zhengzhou city, China.
Although it is difficult to directly compare these two extreme events due to differences in area, terrain, climate characteristics and infrastructure, etc., they share a common word, “record breaking”.
Record breaking floods: Germany vs China
According to kachelmannwetter, a German weather portal, 15 precipitation records were broken during the event. The highest precipitation in 24 hours reached 153.5mm in Köln-Stammheim, nearly doubling that in 2017 (95mm), out of more than 76 years of records at the weather station.
Baizhai region in Zhengzhou experienced a whole year’s rainfall in just 4 days
However, you will be even more shocked by the rainfall statistics in Zhengzhou. According to Henan Meteorological Service, the rainstorm in Zhengzhou lasted four days with accumulated precipitation of 452.6mm on average, out of which Baizhai region recorded the highest at 906mm. To put that in context, Zhengzhou’s average annual precipitation is 641mm so some regions, e.g., Baizhai, experienced a whole year’s rainfall in just four days.
In total, ten weather stations in Zhengzhou recorded historically high 24-hour precipitation during the event. Moreover, the highest hourly precipitation was an astonishing 201.9mm (from 4pm to 5pm, 20 July), breaking the hourly precipitation record (198.5mm) of not only Zhengzhou, but the entire mainland.
There were 177 deaths in Germany & 292 deaths in Zhengzhou
These extremes are astounding – no wonder these fierce and/or long-lasting storms are challenging our existing infrastructure and emergency plans, which has already resulted in scary consequences. The above two heavy rainfall events have resulted in 177 deaths in Germany and 292 deaths in Zhengzhou, not to mention the economic losses of billions of dollars.
China more aware of the risks it will face
As a country with complicated terrains and diverse climate characteristics, China has pointed out relevant risks in its annual update for climate change. On 4 August 2021, the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) published the Blue Book on Climate Change in China 2021. It states that China is sensitive and will be significantly impacted by climate change with temperatures rising faster than the global average (see chart below).
China’s climate risk index has moved from 4.3 to 6.8 & its aware of it
Records from 1961 to 2020 show that precipitation and extreme weather have been increasing in terms of both frequency and intensity. Overall, China’s climate risk index has moved from 4.3 (average from 1961-1990) to 6.8 (average from 1991-2020).
Everyone will likely face higher risks = time to adapt
Certainly, this is not a problem just for China, but the whole world. IPCC has given a broader view about climate risks on a global basis in the Physical Science Basis of AR6 published on 9 August 2021. As indicated by IPCC projections, both the frequency and intensity of extreme weather will increase with rising global temperatures as the chart shows.
Furthermore, urban areas will be more vulnerable to climate extremes due to their unique interaction with the climate system such as heat islands. This is important to consider for both developed countries facing urban infrastructure maintenance pressure and developing countries designing cities for higher urbanisation.
It’s not just China – the world must face the reality of new extremes and must adapt
The impact of climate change has become more and more material. Worst case scenarios might be the reality next time, and not just a scenario drawn up on paper. To avoid being surprised by the frightening consequences of global warming, it is necessary for us to face the reality of new extremes and adapt by futureproofing existing and new infrastructure designs/emergency plans.
After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Counting the Costs of Floods in China – With China in the midst of one of its worst flood episodes in history, Asit K Biswas & Cecilia Tortajada look at the significant social and economic costs of floods, and what can be done about them
- Too Big To Fail! Protect At All Costs – Multiple policy innovations have been unleashed to protect the Yangtze River as it is too big to fail – corporates and investors need to get on top of the YREB to avoid regulatory shocks
- Blue City Water Quality Index – Building on their successful Blue Map mobile app, IPE takes it up another notch with the new Blue City Water Quality Map. Hear from their Shen Sunan on which cities are leading and which are lagging
- Confronting Storms & Climate Risk In HK – Typhoons Hato and Mangkhut have wreaked havoc in the Greater Bay Area but Dr. Faith Chan from the University of Nottingham Ningbo believes these climate risks can be confronted, with Hong Kong leading the way
- Pearl River Delta: 5 Water Must-Knows – China’s Pearl River Delta generates 9% of GDP but water challenges lurk behind the dazzling economic success. Don’t know what these are? China Water Risk’s Feng Hu shares 5 water must-knows for the region
- China Water-nomics – Will China’s economic development be hampered by limited water resources? The very existence of the Three Red Lines signals that China can’t keep developing the way it has. Read on for why GDP will be capped at 5.7% given China’s water-nomics
More on Latest
- Code Red: 8 things you need to know about water in IPCC AR6 IPCC AR6 is a code red for water too! CWR’s Tan shares 8 things you may have missed on water and urges to delay no more
- Escalating Flood Costs & Compounding Events Test Financial Resilience – Compound extreme events could trigger systemic shocks across the financial industry. CWR’s Dharisha Mirando suggests ways to build better resilience
- Climate Resilience In Asian Cities – Sindhamani & Dolman from Royal HaskoningDHV share how cities can become climate resilient, which are doing worst & best, the role Nature-Based Solutions can play, & what all of this means for Asia
- Market Potential Of Nature-based Solutions In Southeast Asia – Nature absorbs 50% of CO2 emissions & provides US$72trn in goods but is chronically underfunded. What are the opportunities in SEA? RS Groups’ Joan Shang shares key takeaways from their study
G20: Don’t Just End Coal; Add Deep Cuts For Oil & Gas Too – Producing >60% of coal, oil & gas, G20 is trying to end coal yet still subsidising oil & gas. Why does this happen? Which countries are most responsible? CWR’s Leung brings to light the motivations behind
Read more from Yuanchao Xu →