East Asia: Severe water deficits forecast for North Korea

23 July 2019

The 12-month forecast for East Asia through March 2020 indicates widespread water surpluses of varying intensity in southeastern China including exceptional surpluses in Guangdong.

Surpluses will also be widespread and intense in Qinghai, western Tibet (Xizang), and along a jagged northeast path from western Inner Mongolia, China through northeastern Mongolia.

Severe surpluses are forecast along the Ordos Loop of the Yellow River (Huang He) and in Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China.

Moderate to exceptional deficits are expected in the Shandong Peninsula in the east and Yunnan in the south.

Deficits are forecast for the central region of the Korean Peninsula, which will be severe to extreme in southern North Korea and could reach exceptional intensity around Pyongyang. In Japan, some deficits are expected in northernmost Honshu and in Hokkaido.

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

The forecast through September indicates that, though anomalies will shrink and downgrade overall, many regions will remain affected. Surpluses in southeastern China will shrink and moderate, particularly in Guizhou, Hunan, and Jiangxi. Surpluses in Qinghai and western Tibet will downgrade but remain widespread, and surpluses in northeastern China will moderate. The extent of exceptional deficits in southern Sichuan and in Yunnan will diminish but intense deficits will persist. Intense deficits in Henan and Shandong will disappear, with moderate surpluses emerging along the Yellow River in this region and surpluses along the Ordos Loop of the river moderating.

Deficits on the Korean Peninsula will shrink somewhat but will be severe in southern North Korea and into South Korea around Seoul. Deficits could be exceptional near Pyongyang. Deficits will nearly disappear in Japan, persisting in northernmost Honshu and in Hokkaido, and moderate surpluses will increase in eastern Honshu north of Tokyo.

From October through December, normal conditions will return to much of East Asia. Surpluses will nearly disappear in southeastern China, and will shrink and downgrade in Qinghai, western Tibet, and northeastern China. Surpluses on the Yellow River through Shandong and Henan and along the Ordos Loop will transition to normal conditions. Deficits in Sichuan and Yunnan will nearly disappear. Deficits will shrink and downgrade on the Korean Peninsula, but moderate to severe deficits will persist in southwestern North Korea. Japan can expect nearly normal conditions.

The forecast for the final three months – January through March 2020 – indicates that moderate surpluses will re-emerge in southeastern China, deficits will return to the Shandong Peninsula, and mild to moderate deficits will emerge in western Inner Mongolia leading west to more intense deficits across the central breadth of Xinjiang.

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

Torrential rains and devastating floods swept across southern and eastern China this month killing at least 61 people and forcing 356,000 to evacuate. Over 9,000 homes collapsed and 371,000 hectares  (916,760 acres) of farmland were damaged, amounting to 13.35 billion yuan (USD $1.93 billion) in direct economic losses. 

In the northeast, heavy rains flooded 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) of farmland in Heilongjiang Province early this month. 

By mid-July, this year’s flooding season in China had affected a total of 19.91 million people and cost 53.4 billion yuan (USD $7.7 billion). 

Up to 472.5 mm (18.6 inches) of rain fell in a single day amid a week of rain in parts of Japan, triggering deadly mudslides and flooding early this month. At least two people were killed and an evacuation advisory was issued to over one million people across 10 prefectures.

Floods across central and northern Mongolia killed at least 12 people in mid-June.

State media in North Korea claim that ongoing drought could severely affect the country’s crop harvests this year, reporting that the South Hwanghae Province, known as the rice basket of the country, is the most severely hit by high temperatures and drought conditions. Roughly half of the rice paddies in North Hwanghae Province are also dry and damaged, according to the report. 

In northern China’s Hebei Province, drought has damaged 793,000 hectares (1.96 million acres) of crops and caused a shortage of drinking water for over 15,000 people and 3,000 domestic animals. Drought has plagued eastern China too, where 876 million cubic meters (30 billion cubic feet) of water has been diverted from the Yellow River since late June to supply Shandong Province, a major grain-producing area.

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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