The country's northern regions will very likely suffer severe drought in the coming spring, meteorologists forecast on Monday.
"Average precipitation in Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces and the eastern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in January and February was only 1.8 mm, down by 80 percent on the average and the lowest since 1951," China Meteorological Administration (CMA) spokeswoman Jiao Yumei said.
In the first two months, Beijing received only 0.1 mm of rainfall, the second lowest in history, figures from the CMA showed. The average precipitation during the period is usually about 10 mm.
About 330,000 hectares of cropland have been severely affected in the eastern part of North China, with almost no effective rainfall in the area.
Since autumn, continuous drought has also hit southern China. Between September and December, Jiangxi, Hunan and Guangxi saw their lowest precipitation levels for five decades.
Some of the usually wet, humid regions such as Yunnan and Hainan provinces also saw significant decrease in rainfall, with precipitation of less than 10 mm.
Meteorologists said that last winter was also the coldest in 22 years. The average national temperature during the season was 0.2 C lower than normal years. But this did not suggest that the trend of warm winters, which started from the mid-1980s, has ended.
They attributed the exceptional conditions to the La Nina phenomenon and abnormal atmospheric circulation, which would prevail until summer.
Sandstorms have also been forecast for the coming spring in the northern regions.
"There will be more days with dusty weather than last year. But the number won't surpass the annual average of 19 days," Zhang Qiang, a scientist at the National Meteorological Center, said.
The water level of Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province, China's largest body of freshwater lake, has fallen to a record low, shrinking to less than 50 sq km from 3,000 sq km in September, due to severe drought.
With the continuous drop of the water level, the lake is gradually losing its capacity for self-purification. Statistics showed that water quality of Poyang Lake saw a severe deterioration last year.
Water sampled from the point where the lake infuses into the Yangtze River was graded V, the worst pollution rating and a level unfit for human contact.
(China Daily March 4, 2008)