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Reversal of rainfall: summer flooding hits China drought region

Heavy rainfall causes flooding and landslides in regions afflicted by winter drought

Reversal of rainfall:   summer flooding hits China drought region

Close-up of TOVAS Giovanni accumulated rainfall image for June 15-21, 2010 in southern China

Reversal of rainfall:   summer flooding hits China drought region

Heavy rain events occurred recently in southern China between June 16 and 21, 2010.   Figure 1 shows that the total rainfall received in some areas exceeded 700 mm.

Accumulated rainfall in southern China, June 15-21, 2010

Figure 1. NASA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Multi-Satellite Precipitation Analysis in Real Time (TMPA-RT) data, displaying accumulated rainfall from June 15-21, 2010 over southern China.

Satellite rainfall data show that most of the rain fell on June 19th  (Figure 2).  An animation of infrared (IR) images from a geostationary weather satellite (Figure 3) shows that several massive rain storms occurred in this region throughout the day of the 19th. 

Time series of rainfall in southern China, June 2010

Figure 2. Time series plot of TMPA-RT data, showing that the maximum rainfall occurred on June 19th in this region.   The red arrow indicates the peak rainfall accumulation event on June 19th.

Merged IR animation of storms in southern China, June 19

Figure 3. Geostationary satellite IR image animation showing a large, strong rain storm developing over the region on June 19th.   The animation begins at 04Z and ends at 23Z.

The heavy rainfall caused widespread flooding in the region.  According to news reports, at least 379 people lost their lives and over 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes – a vivid reminder of the summer of 1998 when heavy rains centered over an area further north, along the southern part of the Yangtze River.   During that summer, raging flood waters destroyed main levees along the Yangtze, and several major cities nearby were flooded. Over 3,700 people were killed and 15 million were temporarily left homeless, along with severe property damage.

By contrast, it was abnormally dry in many parts of southern China last summer (Figure 4).  In some areas, only 50% of the normal rainfall was received during the peak months of the monsoon season, drying up reservoirs and rivers and causing severe water shortages, according to news reports. The drought worsened over the winter, as discussed in a previous news item, "Rainfall anomaly visualizes severe drought in China's Yunnan province".

Rainfall anomaly in China, Summer 2009

Figure 4. Rainfall anomaly map for the summer of 2009, showing that a  large portion of southern China was under an abnormally dry condition (light and medium green).


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Last updated: Jul 06, 2010 12:23 PM ET