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    Extreme Weather Battered China in 2023. This Year Could Be Worse.

    The end of the current El Niño cycle will make severe heat waves, droughts, and floods even more likely, climate experts say.

    China is likely to face another summer of extreme and unpredictable weather events, according to government experts.

    The current El Niño — a climate pattern that generally causes rising temperatures around the world — has been weakening since January and is likely to end completely in April or May, according to the latest forecast by China’s National Climate Center.

    But the conclusion of an El Niño cycle is often the most dangerous period, leading to even higher temperatures and an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, and floods, experts cautioned.

    “The end of the El Niño effect will have a significant impact on China’s climate patterns,” said Zheng Fei, a researcher at the International Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

    The delayed impact of El Niño is the result of a ripple effect in ocean surface temperatures, as high temperatures in the western Pacific and tropical Indian Ocean slowly spread around the world, according to Zheng. The greatest impact from El Niño won’t be felt in China until spring or summer this year, he added.

    Southern China will experience an unusually cold and rainy spring as a result, while northeastern China will be at risk of spring flooding, Zheng predicted. Eastern China will experience an increase in summer precipitation, especially in the Yangtze and Huaihe River basins. Typhoons are also more likely to strike China’s coastal areas, he added.

    El Niño and La Niña effects tend to alternate, with a cycle typically lasting between two and seven years. In China, the average cycle lasts for four years.

    The last transition from El Niño to La Niña in 2020 was particularly turbulent in China, with devastating floods, irregular typhoon patterns, and record-breaking temperatures affecting many parts of the country.

    El Niño is only one of the factors causing an increase in extreme weather in China, with the climate also being impacted by rising sea surface temperatures, shrinking polar ice caps, and the melt-off of land snow, according to Zhou Bing, chief analyst at the China Meteorological Administration.

    In 2023, China experienced its hottest year ever recorded, with temperatures 0.8 degrees Celsius higher than normal on average. Massive floods engulfed parts of the country in the summer. A few months later, temperatures plunged to record lows, causing transportation disruptions and school closures in the Northeast.

    (Header image: VCG)