SHANGHAI (AP) — It’s been so hot in China that people are grilling shrimp on manhole covers, eggs are hatching without incubators and a highway billboard has mysteriously caught fire by itself.
The heat wave — the worst in at least 140 years in some parts — has left dozens of people dead and pushed thermometers above 40 degrees C (104 F) in at least 40 cities and counties, mostly in the south and east. Authorities for the first time have declared the heat a “level 2” weather emergency— a label normally invoked for typhoons and flooding.
“It is just hot! Like in a food steamer!” 17-year-old student Xu Sichen said outside the doors of a shopping mall in the southern financial hub of Shanghai while her friend He Jiali, also 17, complained that her mobile phone had in recent days turned into a “grenade.”
“I’m so worried that the phone will explode while I’m using it,” He said.
Extreme heat began hitting Shanghai and several eastern and southern provinces in early July and is expected to grip much of China through mid-August.
Shanghai set its record high temperature of 40.6 C (105 F) on July 26, and Thursday’s heat marked the city’s 28th day above 35 C. At least 10 people died of heat stroke in the city over the past month, including a 64-year-old Taiwanese sailor, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Climate scientists usually caution that they can’t attribute a single weather event like the Chinese heat wave to man-made global warming. But “human-caused warming sure ups the odds of heat waves like this one,” said Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona. The Chinese heat wave “gives a very real face to what global warming is all about,” he wrote in an email.
“This is the future. Get used to it,” Andrew Dressler of Texas A&M University told The Associated Press by email. “You often hear people say, ‘Oh, we’ll just adapt to the changing climate.’ It turns out that that’s a lot harder than it sounds, as the people in China are finding out now.”
Wu Guiyun, 50, who has a part-time job making food deliveries in Shanghai, said she has been trying to linger inside air-conditioned offices for as long as possible whenever she brings in a takeout order. Outside, she said: “It’s so hot that I can hardly breathe.”