Japan Breaks National Heat Record. Chinese Heat Wave Continues

By: Christopher C. Burt , 8:48 PM GMT on August 12, 2013

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Japan Breaks National Heat Record. Chinese Heat Wave Continues

An all-time national heat record was set in Japan today (August 12th) when the temperature peaked at 41.0°C (105.8°F) at the Ekawasaki site in Shimanto (part of Kochi Prefecture). The previous record of 40.9°C (105.6°F) was recorded at Tajima and Kumagaya on August 16, 2007. Tokyo endured its warmest daily minimum on August 11th with a low of 30.4°C (86.7°F). This was the 2nd warmest minimum on record for Japan following a minimum of 30.8°C (87.4°F) at Itoigawa on August 22, 1990.



Location of Shimanto on the island of Honshu in Japan. Wikipedia.


How many have died as a result of the Chinese heat wave?

On Sunday, August 11th, the temperature peaked at 42.7°C (108.9°F) at Shengxian, its hottest temperature measured so far during the heat wave. At Hangzhou the temperature reached 41.1°C (106.0°F) on August 11th and 40.3°C (104.5°F) on August 12th marking the 12th day since July 24th that the city surpassed or tied its previous all-time record high of 40.3° set on August 1, 2003.

Eastern China, where about 30% of the population of the country and 5% of the global population reside (approximately 400 million people) has undergone a heat wave unprecedented in its history. No one really knows how many have died as a result of the heat wave (Chinese news sources claim ‘about two dozen’), but statistically it is almost certain that many thousands must have perished as the result of the heat over the past month.



The populous cities of China must be almost unendurable during long summer heat waves. On top of the extreme daily maximum temperatures of the past month, the minimums have also been in record-breaking territory. Health officials site that the lack of night time cooling ultimately leads to high mortality rates during heat waves. Photo from Wikicommons.

Virtually every possible heat statistic has been broken for most sites in eastern China (as well as central and southern Japan, and South Korea). I cannot think of any other heat event that has affected so many people for so long (including those that plagued the U.S. in the mid 1930s, Russia in 2010, and Western Europe in August 2003). Obviously, the Chinese authorities are keeping the fatalities from this ongoing event under wraps. The European heat wave of 2003 killed over 72,000 people, the Russian heat wave of 2010 killed over 55,000, and in the U.S historical record, we know that many thousands also succumbed to the heat waves of the mid-1930s and in 1995 in the Midwest. The dense population of cities like Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Changsha (these three metropolitan areas accounting for 50 million people) and the fact that many if not most have no air-conditioning and are also unofficial immigrants from rural areas (meaning that if they died in the heat wave, their deaths would not be reported as local urban fatalities) leads one to the conclusion that a major catastrophe must be taking place.

It is difficult to properly estimate the number of fatalities as a result of excessive heat. In the West the estimates are mostly derived from examining mortality statistics and comparing how many anomalous deaths occurred during a heat period compared to what would normally have been observed. This was how the figures for the deaths in Europe in 2003, Russia in 2010, and the U.S. in 1995 were ascertained. Obviously, this has not (yet) been undertaken in China. The Chinese authorities are notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to mass casualty natural disasters fearing, I would surmise, that releasing statistics of such might cause unnecessary panic. Often subtle hints must be looked for in official press releases such as this statement recently released by the government-owned Xinhua news agency : Several have died of heat strokes already, including construction workers, many of whom are migrants with limited health care benefits. The mortality rate for heat strokes could be as high as 50%-70% due to lack of timely treatment.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that it is ALWAYS hot and humid in eastern China during the summer (unlike Russia and Western Europe), so perhaps the population has learned to adapt to extreme heat.



This graphic displays of average number of deaths per year shows how heat is the deadliest weather event in the U.S., accounting for 29% of all weather-related fatalities during the period of 1995-2012. It is, therefore, inconceivable that the death toll from the current heat wave in China is only ‘a couple of dozen’. Graphic from Weather Underground based on data from NOAA.


Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

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19. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
3:08 AM GMT on August 14, 2013
weatherhistorian has created a new entry.
18. bappit
7:20 PM GMT on August 13, 2013
Thanks for the link. As long as they keep setting all-time record temps at the surface, I'd say they are currently storing heat particularly given the record high daily minimum temps.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 5956
17. georgevandenberghe
6:25 PM GMT on August 13, 2013
Quoting 16. bappit:

I'd like to read more about that. Can you direct me to some further reading?

Source or sink, they are setting records!


The middle east sink is from reading I did three decades ago in school and I'll have to dig it out of my course notes.


One site that reports this is

http://www.science.co.il/Weather/Middle-East-Clim ate/



(findable with a google search on mideast radiation balance)


Member Since: February 1, 2012 Posts: 17 Comments: 1626
16. bappit
6:14 PM GMT on August 13, 2013
Quoting 9. georgevandenberghe:
In heatwaves like this I pose the question, Is this area a net heat source or sink for the atmosphere. Is the region experiencing negative net radiation so that more IR is lost than IRplus SW gained over the course of 24 hours. The Middle East has this property in summer, their intense heat is abetted by a thermally indirect circulation and is a global heat SINK.

By the way the GFS continues to maintain the heat for week 1 but weakens it a little esp in the north week 2. A tropical cyclone makes landfall in East Central China week 1 also.

When will the Southeast U.S. numbers (a lottery I hope to never win) come up to get this kind of unprecedented heat ??

I'd like to read more about that. Can you direct me to some further reading?

Source or sink, they are setting records!
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 5956
15. LAbonbon
5:55 PM GMT on August 13, 2013
Quoting 14. JeffMasters:


It's the average number of deaths per year shown in the plot, so you have to multiply by 18 to get the total for the 18-year period (3474 heat deaths, 1242 hurricane deaths.)

Jeff Masters


Oops! I read it too quickly. Thank you for the clarification.
Member Since: June 26, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 1817
14. Dr. Jeff Masters , Director of Meteorology (Admin)
5:38 PM GMT on August 13, 2013
Quoting 5. LAbonbon:
Very interesting blog. I have two questions regarding the mortality numbers from 1995-2012:

Deaths post-Hurricane Katrina are not included. Is this due to deaths by drowning as a result of levee failure?

Also, the 1995 heat wave had many more deaths than is identified on the graph for the entirety of the period 1995-2012. Any idea why the number is so low?


It's the average number of deaths per year shown in the plot, so you have to multiply by 18 to get the total for the 18-year period (3474 heat deaths, 1242 hurricane deaths.)

Jeff Masters
13. SteveDa1
4:05 PM GMT on August 13, 2013
Quoting Christopher Burt:
"...marking the 12th day since July 24th that the city surpassed or tied its previous all-time record high of 40.3° set on August 1, 2003."

I have no words for this. I tried but I can't!

I never thought this was possible. Come to think of it, these are words. :)
Member Since: October 17, 2006 Posts: 60 Comments: 1297
12. barbamz
3:32 PM GMT on August 13, 2013
Thanks a lot, Christopher, for asking more thoroughly about the devastating impacts of this incredible heat wave. When you look into the damage to crops and water reservoirs the aftermath of this summer will last much longer than the heat wave itself.


MetisEtrade News Desk: Fatal heat wave in Japan


Summer Heatwave - Heat destroys crops, kills fish in eastern China
Member Since: October 25, 2008 Posts: 51 Comments: 5662
11. pcola57
1:43 PM GMT on August 13, 2013
Thanks Chris for the reality check on the ongoing heat catastrophy..
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6770
10. maxcrc
1:08 PM GMT on August 13, 2013
Quoting 8. FormerAussie:
At least they are making the observations public. I was once told that some eastern European countries, before the collapse of communism, thermometers were made that would not rise above the temperature where factories and offices were required to send the workforce home! As a result people in Mostar in Bosnia-Herzogovina feel they've been dened their due title of one of Europe's hottest places...


This is more like a legend.
Mostar is not as hot as many other places in Europe.
Its all-time hghest temperature is 43.1C.
The 46.1C in July 1901 is a wrong data, that day it wasn't so hot.
The same story is said in the Arab countries, where thermometers prevent to go to 50C (they stop at 49.9C) so workers cannot stay home.
This is all false, there are lots of over 50C and very few cases of 49.9C in one century in dozens stations.
These are metropolitan legends but not true.
Member Since: February 9, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 149
9. georgevandenberghe
11:35 AM GMT on August 13, 2013
In heatwaves like this I pose the question, Is this area a net heat source or sink for the atmosphere. Is the region experiencing negative net radiation so that more IR is lost than IRplus SW gained over the course of 24 hours. The Middle East has this property in summer, their intense heat is abetted by a thermally indirect circulation and is a global heat SINK.

By the way the GFS continues to maintain the heat for week 1 but weakens it a little esp in the north week 2. A tropical cyclone makes landfall in East Central China week 1 also.

When will the Southeast U.S. numbers (a lottery I hope to never win) come up to get this kind of unprecedented heat ??
Member Since: February 1, 2012 Posts: 17 Comments: 1626
8. FormerAussie
8:21 AM GMT on August 13, 2013
At least they are making the observations public. I was once told that some eastern European countries, before the collapse of communism, thermometers were made that would not rise above the temperature where factories and offices were required to send the workforce home! As a result people in Mostar in Bosnia-Herzogovina feel they've been dened their due title of one of Europe's hottest places...
Member Since: October 10, 2006 Posts: 3 Comments: 55
7. Snacker2
3:42 AM GMT on August 13, 2013
Love this blog, I've read them all. I have to add something I heard in China and weather accuracy. I spent 4 years in China and have a little experience with Chinese weather since I'm a weather fanatic and spent most of my free time there talking about the weather to any Chinese person willing to talk on the subject. First, Lets be a bit skeptical on a couple things. Keep in mind one huge fact about China: Weather is a state secret. I recall in previous blogs a few things that seemed a bit off. I have lived in many cities in China and have NEVER seen visibilities as good as those reported. A large city would be even less likely to have visibilities of more than 5 KM. If a typhoon washed the air every morning those #'s might be real. One thing you might have heard in the news is a grievance over a weather station at the US embassy in Beijing which reports weather conditions including air quality. They disagree with the official weather bureau report and as you guessed, they report air quality to be much worse than official figures. This is the obvious. The less obvious is a joke in China called 39.5 degrees. In China, workers are mandated by law to have the day off if 40 degrees is reached. Cancelling a few days of work is inconvenient to the business interests in China, so meteorologists are less likely to issue a forecast of 40 degrees. So in many areas they make a joke on a really hot day, saying its 39.5 degrees. I'm guessing this heat wave is one or two things: Warmer than is actually reported and possibly not as unique as we think.

Other than that I would like to add that the Chinese are not as inclined to discuss weather. People looked at me funny as I watched the swirls of typhoons on animated satellite because nobody knew what it was. They couldn't tell the difference between cumulus and cirrus. They feel the weather cannot be changed so lets not bother discussing it. Yes that was a generalization but its clear to me western culture is far more into meteorology than the locals in the parts of China I lived in. I looked at them all funny for being so into a sport where people go insane over a little ball getting paddled over a tiny table.
Member Since: August 13, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
6. cyclonerichard
3:29 AM GMT on August 13, 2013
I was under the impression that Hurricane Katrina and the after effects killed 1800 or so and that the heatwave in Chicago killed at least 800. There have been a few floods that also have added to that death toll. So I'm thinking that these totals on that chart are "direct fatalities".
Member Since: February 2, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2
5. LAbonbon
10:51 PM GMT on August 12, 2013
Very interesting blog. I have two questions regarding the mortality numbers from 1995-2012:

Deaths post-Hurricane Katrina are not included. Is this due to deaths by drowning as a result of levee failure?

Also, the 1995 heat wave had many more deaths than is identified on the graph for the entirety of the period 1995-2012. Any idea why the number is so low?
Member Since: June 26, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 1817
4. bappit
10:09 PM GMT on August 12, 2013
Yep.

"... leads one to the conclusion that a major catastrophe must be taking place."

@2: There are various interrelated effects. The subsiding air under the upper level high alters the lapse rate making the air more stable which suppresses convection that would transfer heat away from the surface. Also, there are fewer clouds so more sunlight reaches the surface. Soil moisture progressively decreases which means the surface increases in temperature more rapidly each day (but the cities are so urbanized that there is less soil moisture to begin with). As the surface temperature increases, more heat is added to the air through conduction. Radiation from the ground also is absorbed by "green house" gases which trap heat, most notably water vapor. The proximity of the oceans, which are also heating, provides a source of water vapor in the air even while the ground dries out. With added water vapor, temperatures decrease less at night. That means the next day starts from a higher temperature than the day before. That's just a sketch of what is happening.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 5956
3. Christopher C. Burt , Weather Historian
9:55 PM GMT on August 12, 2013
Quoting 2. ChateauChalon:
How is the position and the strength of the regional pressure system connected to the heatwave?

P.S.: Shimanto is actually on the island of Shikoku and not Honshu.


Thanks! I just realized that looking closer at the map!
Member Since: February 15, 2006 Posts: 289 Comments: 273
2. ChateauChalon
9:48 PM GMT on August 12, 2013
How is the position and the strength of the regional pressure system connected to the heatwave?

P.S.: Shimanto is actually on the island of Shikoku and not Honshu.
Member Since: July 19, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 9
1. HurricaneAndre
8:49 PM GMT on August 12, 2013
Hi there,this is a good topic to discuss.
Member Since: June 11, 2013 Posts: 19 Comments: 2517

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About weatherhistorian

Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.