China’s Unrelenting Flooding: 2020 Summer Monsoon Season Delivers Historic Rainfall

China Songhua River October 2020 Annotated

October 25, 2020

The 2020 summer monsoon season has delivered historic amounts of rain to China. Since June, unusually strong, stationary weather systems have produced frequent storms and heavy rainfall in major river basins in central, southwestern, and northeastern China. By September, news outlets reported that the country had experienced at least 21 large-scale floods in 2020—the most floods since 1996.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured these scenes of the Songhua River in the Heilongjiang Province of northeast China on October 25, 2020 (above) and November 1, 2019 (below). These false-color images use infrared and visible light (bands 7-2-1) to better distinguish water from land. Vegetation appears green, water appears dark blue, and bare land appears brown.

China Songhua River November 2019 Annotated

November 1, 2019

In September, Typhoon Maysak brought persistent rainfall to the Heilongjiang Province and flooded nearby areas. The rains submerged buildings in Harbin, the provincial capital, and caused rivers to overflow. Water levels on the Songhau River, as well as 14 other rivers, exceeded warning levels, and authorities suspended water travel on the Songhau. Flood waves from the Mudan River also broke a dam located on the outskirts of Harbin.

The monsoon rains also brought major flooding to the Yangtze River and Yellow River basins. The Three Gorges Dam, which spans the Yangtze River, experienced the highest water levels since the dam began holding water. The flooding has destroyed croplands, affected millions of people across the country, and caused hundreds of deaths.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview.

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