Three Gorges Probe

Dam will raise temperatures in central China, scientist says

Associated Press
February 2, 2006

The Three Gorges dam will create a reservoir massive enough to raise temperatures and force crop changes in nearby areas, a government meteorologist predicts.

SHANGHAI, China ‚Äî China’s Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric project, will create a reservoir massive enough to raise temperatures and force crop changes in nearby areas, a government meteorologist predicted Wednesday. Zhu Changhan, a researcher at the China Meteorological Administration, said temperatures around the reservoir site in central China could rise by an average of 1 degree after the dam’s completion in 2009. Computer simulations show the 400-mile-long body of water will be big enough and change the terrain enough to alter wind patterns, increase humidity, and reflect more sunlight, Zhu said. He said this will produce hotter weather in areas up to 60 miles from the reservoir, which will fill part of the Yangtze River valley in the regions of Chongqing and Hubei. Though small, the rise in temperatures will be enough to force farmers to abandon some of the crops currently grown in the mountainous region, particularly fruit like mandarin oranges, Zhu said. He said the temperature increase could be even higher in some areas. "The rise in water levels will certainly bring changes. And those changes can’t be reversed," Zhu said by telephone from his office in Beijing. He said the ecosystem in the region’s forests and other undeveloped areas will probably prove more resilient and not be significantly affected. The higher temperatures may also help local farmers by bringing increased rainfalls, he said. The computer estimates are based on detailed wind speed, humidity, and temperature measurements taken in the Three Gorges area since 1996 by a team of Chinese government meteorologists The China Meteorological Administration, the national weather bureau, will make more detailed simulations as measurements continue to be taken until the 2009 completion date, Zhu said. Environmental impact is just one of many controversies surrounding the $25 billion dam project, which the government bills as necessary for central China’s development. More than 1.13 million people are being relocated, and experts have raised concerns about pollution and the stability of bedrock below the dam site. The reservoir will be filled by stages starting in June of next year.

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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