Southern China at risk of winter drought, drop in hydropower

Cracks run through the partially dried-up river bed of the Gan River, a tributary to Poyang Lake during a regional drought in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, China, August 28, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

SINGAPORE, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Southern China is expected to face a drought, which will reduce hydropower generation and mean more power output is needed from other sources to meet peak winter demand, a weather scientist said on Thursday.

"Most parts of China are forecast to have near- or less rainfall this winter than a normal year. But southern China could see drought or even severe drought," Shen Yanbo, chief scientist at public service centre of China Meteorological Administration, told a seminar hosted by state-backed Chongqing Gas Exchange.

China's Ministry of Emergency Management also on Tuesday said it expected a drought along the Yangtze basin in November, while central and southern China is at "extremely high risk" of bush fires.

Shen identified other regions that might experience an "extreme severe drought," including Chongqing and Guangxi, where hydropower is the most significant source of power supply.

Chongqing and neighbouring Sichuan suffered a drought and power shortage in July and August, forcing companies including Taiwan's Foxconn and battery giant CATL - to shut down or curb output.

Weak hydropower in the regions would require other power generators, especially coal-fired power utilities, to boost production to meet peak winter demand, adding to carbon emissions, ultimately increasing the risk of extreme weather.

Shen said climate change had increased the likelihood of weather events such as sleet in southern China that could paralyse grid transmission lines.

He expected most of China to experience near-normal or warmer temperatures this winter, but some northern regions, including Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi, may be colder than usual.

Reporting by Muyu Xu; editing by Barbara Lewis

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