Near record-setting rainfall in China's Yangtze River Basin has been followed by unusually hot, dry conditions.
The longer you live in this world, the greater the odds are that you will see some form of repetition in lifecycles. Those cycles may be as vague as returning fashion that occurred decades ago to something as complex as a human trait perpetuated over and over again in multiple generations within the same family. These cycles of repetition occur in all forms of life on this planet and the weather is certainly no exception.

The single most important law that must be followed in atmospheric cycles is the law of equilibrium. The atmosphere, despite its enormous complexity, must stay in some form of equilibrium. There is only so much energy available in the atmosphere and if some weather phenomenon exhausts an energy source, then change occurs in the atmosphere that gives off new energy to maintain the same amount of total energy that was available in the atmosphere to begin with.

However, the atmosphere is very large and very complex, so it may become difficult to see all of the changes that are taking place to keep the atmosphere in an energy balance. You may have noticed over the years that enormous storms that produce extended periods of thunderstorms, generating significant rainfall, flooding, lightning and strong wind, often are followed by periods of tranquil weather and generally stable conditions. That is just one example of equilibrium over a localized region. But remember, the world is a huge playground of energy exchanges, and numerous large storm systems may appear at the same time in various areas around the world. However, the same amount of energy is still present whether there are 2 or 22 storm systems.

In order for the earth to not implode on itself, the outward motion of the spinning planet must be equally balanced with gravity. And the force of gravity must be equally balanced with the earth’s centrifugal force created by its high rate of spinning. If the force of gravity was less than the centrifugal force, the world would explode.

The same thing happens with general weather patterns. There must be an equal number of areas experiencing tranquil weather as there are areas experiencing stormy conditions. This has to be the case or, again, the earth would be out of balance with itself and no equilibrium would exist. Based on this fact, one can easily predict that when weather conditions are quite extreme, a more tranquil period is sure to follow. Sometimes it does not follow in the exact place where the extreme conditions once occurred, but the bottom line is that somewhere in the world there has to be some tranquil conditions to bring on that equality of energy worldwide.

The phenomenal month of rainfall damaged or destroyed more than 800,000 homes in China, killed 764 people and inundated 18 million acres of cropland that was at least partially damaged by flood water.
Weather conditions in China this summer have illustrated this best. China’s Yangtze River Basin experienced torrential rain and flooding of a very severe nature during the week ended July 5. A couple of weeks later a serious flood affected a part of northeastern China. During the month of July, a near record amount of rain fell across the middle and lower Yangtze River Basin area, resulting in 8 to more than 22 inches of precipitation. The phenomenal month of rainfall damaged or destroyed more than 800,000 homes in China, killed 764 people and inundated 18 million acres of cropland that was at least partially damaged by flood water. The insurance company Aon Benfield estimated $33 billion of damage has occurred in China this year and $28 billion of that came from the early July flood event.

China has seen severe flooding like this before, with the previous record-setting year being 1998. Damage in that summer was supposedly worse than that of this year, but the jury is still out on that one. In the meantime, 1998 was 18 years ago and there is a pattern of repeating weather that occurs high above the surface of the earth in 18.3-year intervals. This repeating pattern is a part of the need for equilibrium noted above. It is an even better example of how complex systems (like the earth’s atmosphere) fit the “Chaos Theory” that basically says complex patterns that involve many different and often conflicting movements (like the air) create unpredictable solutions. Weather forecasts cannot verify because the equations used to predict all of the chaotic movements of air in the atmosphere cannot be solved. They only may be estimated and the slightest error in the estimation can throw off predictions well into the future in such a manner that the prediction cannot and will not verify. If scientists can build a big enough computer that can predict all of the processes that occur in the atmosphere with accuracy there would be no need for meteorologists because the computers would make correct predictions each time.

In the meantime, the Chaos Theory goes on and suggests in a closed environment, such as earth’s atmosphere, the longer chaotic processes are allowed to continue the more likely they are to reveal a pattern, and we see this often revealed in 10-day weather cycles, 11-year cycles and 18.3-year cycles. The atmosphere is full of cycles similar to these, and what occurred in China to create flooding in 1998 was also in place this year and in 1980 to induce varying degrees of the same flood phenomenon.

Not only was China’s incredible rain events in July part of a repeating pattern, but in August it also became a good example of equilibrium in the atmosphere. In attempt to keep some amount of balance in the annual weather in China this year, nature has brought on a significant bout of drying and heat in the very same region that was subjected to near record-setting flood in July.

Recent weather conditions have become quite dry and warm in China’s Yangtze River Basin. Rainfall has been well below average for a few weeks now and temperatures have been hotter than usual. The end result has been negative for the region’s crops since it is still reeling from the extreme flood damage of early July and is now baking dry in some areas, further stressing and threatening what is left of this year’s crops.

Recent weather conditions have become quite dry and warm in China’s Yangtze River Basin.
A big region in east-central China, focused on the Yangtze River Basin, is now too dry and suffering heat and moisture stress after being extremely wet and flooded earlier this year. This is a perfect example of how nature tries to stay in equilibrium. The annual amount of rain that ends up falling in China’s Yangtze River Basin may not be as anomalously wet as once perceived because of the dry pattern that is under way now.

Nature often will balance and counterbalance extreme conditions in the world’s weather. We have seen this frequently over the many years of forecasting. Extreme years, like the heat and dryness of the 2012 U.S. drought, will be countered by incredibly wet conditions at some time or another and brutally cold seasons that set records will often be counterbalanced by seasons that are extremely hot. Last year’s European weather was often hot and dry, but the autumn, winter and spring of 2016 that followed was often cool and wet.

Drew Lerner is a senior agricultural meteorologist with World Weather, Inc. He may be reached at [email protected]. World Weather, Inc. forecasts and comments pertaining to present, past and future weather conditions included in this report constitute the corporation’s judgment as of the date of this report and are subject to change without notice.