East Asia: Intense water deficits to emerge in Shandong, China

19 December 2017


The 12-month forecast map for East Asia (above) indicates widespread surpluses reaching exceptional intensity in the Han (Hanjiang) River watershed, an eastern tributary of the Yangtze; Shanghai; the eastern stretch of the Ordos Loop of the  Yellow (Huang) River; northern Sichuan; Qinghai Lake; and central Tibet.

Surpluses of varying severity are forecast for the Lower Yangtze, Qinghai, the western Pearl (Zhujiang) River watershed, and around the Gulf of Tonkin.

Extreme to exceptional water deficit conditions are forecast for southern Mongolia; Inner Mongolia, China; and northern Gansu. Deficits reaching exceptional severity are forecast for a large block of southeastern China including Fujian, Jiangxi, northern Guangdong, and Taiwan.

Primarily moderate deficits are forecast on the Korean Peninsula which may be more intense near Seoul and Incheon.

Some experts are blaming dire food insecurity resulting from North Korean policy coupled with recent drought for the large numbers of "ghost" fishing vessels washing ashore in Japan this year with dead or dying crew. Though not uncommon over the years, at least 76 such vessels have appeared this year, 28 in November with a total of 40 corpses. Pressure from the DPRK government to double the country's fish catch is believed to be a possible reason for the unusually high number of beached vessels, though experts disagree over the connection to food insecurity. UN sanctions prohibit North Korea from selling seafood abroad, and North Korean fisherman may be taking increasing risks to supplement income through domestic sales.

The Mongolian wheat harvest of 2017 is reported to be about half of last year’s bumper crop due to severe summer drought, and more than 40 percent lower than the average of the previous five years.

Thousands of northern Chinese farmers are reportedly struggling to adequately irrigate corn, tobacco and other crops despite the 500 billion yuan ($76 billion) aqueduct project to divert water from the south to the drier north. The South-to-North Water Diversion project has transported 11 billion cubic meters of water along its 1,432-km waterway (900 miles) across the country, primarily to support thirsty industry in mega-cities. Evidence of climate change, including the reduction in flow of the Han River between 2000 and 2010, offers grim outlook on the supply side of Chinese water. The problem is not just how to fulfill rising demand, but also how to replenish over-extracted aquifers. China is considering other solutions, including importing water-intensive crops, taxation, “sponge city” infrastructure development, pollution remediation, and efficiency technologies, to support its growing northern population in the midst of chronic regional water shortages.

The 3-month time series maps below show the evolving conditions in more detail.

The near-term forecast through February indicates that the extent of exceptional deficits in southern Mongolia and across the border into China will increase, creating a vast stretch from Xinjiang through eastern Inner Mongolia. Severe to exceptional deficits are expected to emerge during this period in Shandong, China – the Lower Yellow (Huang) River - and will continue to emerge in South Korea. Deficits reaching extreme intensity are forecast for Fujian and Guangdong in southeastern China, and into western Taiwan. Some severe deficits are forecast to emerge in Hunan and Guizhou.

Surpluses in the Han (Hanjiang) and Huai River watersheds through Henan, Hubei, and Chongqing are expected to remain widespread and exceptional. Intense surplus conditions are also forecast for Shanghai and the eastern stretch of the Ordos Loop of the Yellow (Huang) River. Exceptional surpluses will continue to emerge in northern Sichuan and Qinghai but conditions of both deficit and surplus are indicated as deficits begin to emerge. Exceptional surpluses are also forecast for central Tibet, and both deficits and surpluses are forecast for western China. Primarily moderate surpluses will continue to emerge around the Gulf of Tonkin and in Hainan. Surpluses through Anhui and western Jiangxi will moderate and surpluses in Japan will nearly disappear.

Though the distribution of water surplus conditions will remain much the same from March through May as in the prior three months both the extent and intensity will diminish. The extent of exceptional deficits across Mongolia and northern China will shrink but intense deficits remain in the forecast for a vast stretch of south-central Mongolia and Inner Mongolia. Intense deficits in Shandong are expected to retreat, but the extent of deficits in southeastern China will increase to include not only Fujian and Guangdong but Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan, eastern Guizhou, and all of Taiwan. Deficits could be extreme in parts of Fujian and Jiangxi. On the Korean Peninsula deficits are expected to moderate, and deficits of varying severity are forecast throughout Japan.

The forecast for the final months, June through August, indicates diminished severity and extent of water anomalies overall.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers. 


Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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