Prolonged periods of drought resulting from China's 23rd consecutive "warm winter" will pose a serious threat to the country's crop yields, the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) said in a report published on Tuesday.
Some regions could experience droughts until the spring, the report said, adding that the warm weather might even continue until summer.
In contrast, extreme falls in temperature are forecast for the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, where "natural disasters such as snowstorms and freezing rains are likely to hit Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces", the report said.
The CMA forecasts come just days ahead of the United Nations summit on climate change in Poznan, Poland, which opens on Monday.
In its report, the CMA urged the Ministry of Agriculture to take steps to avoid agricultural losses caused by the warmer weather.
"Over the next three months, the average temperature in most parts of the country will be slightly higher than normal for the time of year," the report said.
"This winter will be warmer than last year," it said.
Spring and summer temperatures will also be higher than normal, it said.
Although last year's average winter temperature was the lowest since the mid-1980s, the season was still officially classed as "warm", the CMA said.
Experts have said the effects of global warming are becoming increasingly clear to see, and the threat to crop yields should not be understated.
Xiong Wei, an expert on the correlation between climate change and agriculture with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told China Daily on Tuesday that prolonged periods of warm weather and drought are clear signs of climate change, and will have a huge impact on the country's agricultural output.
"Warm winters create an environment in which plant diseases and pests thrive, and these pose a serious threat to crops," he said.
Also, after decades of warm winters, some wheat varieties grown in the north of China have become less resistant to cold.
So if a spring freeze does occur, the crop is at risk and harvests are hit, Xiong said.
The CMA report also said that from next month until February, rainfall in western Liaoning, northeastern Hebei and northeastern Shandong provinces is forecast to be down by 20 to 50 percent on the seasonal average.
Some areas of the country, including the Northeast, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and south of the Yangtze could experience droughts throughout the whole of the winter and into next spring, the report said.
Droughts in the south will have a huge impact on the nation's agricultural output, Xiong said.
"I am very concerned the dry weather will seriously affect grain yields," he said.
(China Daily Novmeber 26, 2008)