Eastern China's increasingly dry climate has caught the attention of domestic experts and government officials, with none able to explain the phenomenon.
"In the past five decades, the eastern part of China, particularly the central part of North China, has increasingly suffered from drought," Ma Zhuguo, professor with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said yesterday at the ongoing Asian Disaster Relief Conference in Beijing.
And the problem has taken a drastic turn for the worse in the past five years, he said.
Realization came after analysis of archival statistics by his laboratory, which initiated research into the country's drought problem five years ago.
"Statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs showed the frequency of drought accounted for an average of 60 percent of the total meteorological disasters between 1999 and 2003, up 10 percent on the previous average figure," Ma said.
"Northeast China bore the brunt between 1999 and 2004."
The crop index is another significant figure pointing to increasing drought. The proportion of land recording no harvests compared to the total area of drought-hit land sharply increased by about 6 percent over the past five years compared with the previous decade, Ma said.
The drought trend is also global, as "the Earth experienced an abrupt aridification in the late 1970s, with drought-hit areas suddenly doubling," Ma said. "Sadly, no scientist can predict when it occurs or disappears," he added.
Also at the conference yesterday, China announced it is in discussion with the United Nations' International Strategy for Disaster Reduction to establish an international drought prevention center.
(China Daily September 28, 2005)