China heat wave: It's so hot, manhole covers cook food

China heat wave leaves much of the country's southern and eastern areas sweltering. Shanghai hits record 105 degrees F. and one eastern city sees record 108 degrees. 

AP
A child demonstrates Wednesday how raw shrimp and an egg are fried in a pan on a manhole cover on a hot summer day in Jinan in east China's Shandong province. The China heat wave is the worst in at least 140 years in some parts.

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."

The highest temperature overall was recorded in the eastern city of Fenghua, which recorded its historic high of 42.7 degrees (108.9 F) on July 24.

On Tuesday, the director of the China Meteorological Administration activated a "level 2" emergency response to the persistent heat wave. This level requires around-the-clock staffing, the establishment of an emergency command center and frequent briefings.

Some Chinese in heat-stricken cities have been cooking shrimps, eggs and bacon in skillets placed directly on manhole covers or on road pavement that has in some cases heated up to 60 degrees C (140 F).

In one photo displayed prominently in the China Daily newspaper, a boy tended to shrimps and an egg in a pan over a manhole cover in eastern Chinese city of Jinan.

In the port city of Ningbo in Zhejiang province, glass has cracked in the heat, vehicles have self-combusted, and a highway billboard caught fire by itself, sending up black smoke in the air, according to China Central Television. The broadcaster said the heat might have shorted an electrical circuit on the billboard.

In the southern province of Hunan, a housewife grabbed several eggs stored at room temperature only to find half-hatched chicks, state media reported.

A joke making the rounds: The only difference between me and barbequed meat is a little bit of cumin.

Associated Press writer Didi Tang in Beijing, news assistant Fu Ting in Shanghai and science writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.