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20 June 2011

Asia Update #34: Major Flooding in Drought Ravaged China

Even though long term moisture deficits remain, catastrophic flooding has occurred across a wide swath of southern China, including along the Yangtze River. In South Asia, the front range of the Himalayas have reported some rain. However, much of northeastern and eastern India along with Bhutan, Bangladesh and Burma remain parched. Precipitation has also been suppressed in southeast Asia. Recently rains have arrived in parts of Cambodia and Vietnam.

By far the biggest event of the last two week in Asia has been the heavy rains across southern China. A region that has been locked in its worst drought of the last 50 years, seems destined to make up the moisture shortage in a matter of weeks. The heavy rains started the second week of June, when Sarika made landfall, and have continued through this week, sending streams and rivers over their banks. That includes the Yangtze River. Damage to infrastructure, fatalities and loss of agriculture (whatever had been spared the effects of the drought) and livestock. A week tropical disturbance former a few days ago, east of the Philippines. It is weak, but it does have moisture associated with it. Currently the unnamed storm is moving slowly towards Hong Kong, and will likely reach land Wednesday or Thursday. There is not much wind with the system, but the rain will add to the flooding disaster now unfolding in southern China. In the interim, rainfall is likely to continue.

Drought has remained firmly in India, from West Bengal eastward across Bangladesh and into Burma, and northward through Arunachal Pradesh and into Tibet and Bhutan. The front range of the Himalayas, however, east of Bhutan in India, have received some rainfall, including most of Nepal. More rainfall is need throughout this region if crops are expected to survive. It is highly unusual that so little rain would fall in this area that people and infrastructure may struggle to properly cope with the scenario, if relief does not arrive soon. Next week could bring some rainfall, possibly heavy, to the region.

Moisture has been suppressed in southeast Asia also, and there is a risk that the annual flooding of the Mekong River basin may be smaller that usual. There are some bright spots, however, much of northern and western Thailand has remained at or above climatology thus far this season. Thanks to some recent rainfall, eastern Cambodia and southern Vietnam have also been fairing better. More moderate precipitation is possible next week throughout southeast Asia.

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