East Asia: Water surpluses will shrink in China; deficits forecast for Korea & Japan

16 August 2018

The 12-month forecast for East Asia through April 2019 (below) indicates widespread surpluses in China reaching exceptional intensity in Sichuan, southern Gansu, Qinghai, central Tibet and along the Yarlung River (Brahmaputra), southwestern Xinjiang, and Yunnan. Surpluses are also forecast for Heilongjiang, central Henan and central Anhui, western Guangxi, Hainan, and along the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers.  

Deficits are forecast for many parts of Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and much of Xinjiang, though conditions of both deficit and surplus are also expected as transitions occur. Moderate to extreme deficits are forecast in Liaoning and Jilin in the northeast, and deficits of generally lesser severity are forecast in Shandong and large pockets in southeastern China, including Guangdong, Hunan, and eastern Guangxi.

Deficits are forecast for Taiwan, South Korea, and Honshu, Japan.

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

The near-term forecast through October indicates that widespread surpluses observed in the center of China – Sichuan, Qinghai, southern Gansu, Shaanxi – during prior months will shrink considerably and downgrade. Further east, surpluses in the Han and Hudi River regions (in Hubei, Henan, and Anhui) will transition to mild deficit. Exceptional surpluses will persist in central Tibet and along the Yarlung River, and will increase somewhat in southwestern Xinjiang. In the south, moderate to severe surpluses will emerge in greater extent in Yunnan and western Guangxi, while downgrading in Hainan.

Deficits in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia will shrink. Moderate to extreme deficits are forecast to persist in Liaoning and Jilin in the northeast. In southeastern China, deficits will shrink and downgrade and deficits in Taiwan will nearly disappear. Moderate to extreme deficits are forecast to emerge on the Korean Peninsula and Honshu, Japan.

From November through January, widespread exceptional deficits are expected to emerge in northwestern China from Xinjiang through western Inner Mongolia, and intense deficits will emerge in Mongolia. Deficits in Liaoning and Jilin will moderate overall, and pockets of primarily moderate deficit will persist in aforementioned regions of southeastern China. Exceptional surpluses will increase in northeastern Qinghai. Widespread moderate to severe surpluses are expected to persist in Yunnan, Guizhou, and western Guangxi.

Deficits on the Korean Peninsula will diminish slightly. Moderate to severe deficits are forecast for southern Honshu, Japan while most of the north will normalize.

The forecast for the final three months – February through April – indicates a transition in southeastern China to widespread moderate surplus conditions, and spreading deficits in the North China Plain.

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

Since the beginning of the flood season roughly 23 million people across 28 Chinese provinces have been affected, with 86 dead and 13 missing. Federal funds of 1.7 billion yuan (250 million U.S. dollars) have been earmarked for disaster relief.

Drought and unusually high temperatures in northeastern China have left 11,000 residents of Liaoning Province with a shortage of drinking water, and have affected more than a million hectares (~2.5 million acres) of crops. Precipitation is down 40 percent from prior years, and temperatures reaching 42 degrees C (107 degrees F) resulted in the death of 25 tons of fish in Huanzidong Reservoir.

The heatwave has also strained other parts of northeast Asia since its onset in early July. This month the program manager for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warned that North Korean crops are suffering, threatening a food crisis in the already-food-insecure country; even prior to the current heatwave, over 40 percent of North Korea’s population needed humanitarian assistance. Though the government has ordered farmers to water fields by hand, water shortages and brutal temperatures have challenged compliance. Citizens have been advised to protect against heatstoke, but air conditioning is a rare luxury in North Korea and even households with fans can't count on uninterrupted electrical power.

In South Korea dozens of people were killed in record heat with temperatures reportedly beating the highs over the last 100 years. The South Korean government cut electricity prices in July and August to encourage citizens to use air conditioning and also plans to revise policy to classify extreme heat as a type of natural disaster, releasing compensation for victims of heat-related deaths and illnesses. The heat, breaching 103 degrees F, caused peculiar events large and small: an ammunition depot exploded in a heat-induced chemical reaction, and a chick hatched from a carton of eggs left on a warm balcony.

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.

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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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