On May 22, a tragic accident occurred in which 21 people died in a mountain marathon in Jintai County, Baiyin, Gansu. The accident was officially explained as a public incident caused by sudden extreme weather. However, the shepherd, who lived locally all day and saved six runners, said the truth in an interview with the New Beijing News: “This kind of bad weather is quite common”!
The author’s family used to run a farm in the southern region of Inner Mongolia in a natural environment very similar to Jingtai. In the spring (April to early June), they were deeply affected by the scourge of high winds and cooling temperatures, dust storms, rain and snow, and frost, and sometimes the harvest would be extinct in patches, so I was deeply impressed to hear this from the shepherd. But anyone who has grown up in that kind of environment will feel this way and will always be alert to extreme weather. I think this is the reason why the participants were oblivious to the arrival of the disaster that day, while only the shepherd realized the seriousness of the problem and immediately went up the mountain to save the people on his own initiative when he saw the weather getting worse.
However, the next day, the shepherd changed his story in an interview with “The Morning News” and said, “This kind of weather is really very rare and uncommon” – one after the other, emphasizing the rarity, completely disproving his previous statement. So, is it that the shepherd lied before and he repented and seriously corrected this time? Or was he forced by outside pressure to say something against his will?
The shepherd’s inconsistent statements
Thanks to the rich meteorological data left behind since the founding of New China, it is perfectly possible to answer this question with scientific data. Before making a description of the meteorological history of Jingtai, it is necessary to make a description of the geography of Jingtai County, because the geography is the decisive factor of meteorology. The geography of Jingtai County has the following characteristics: it is located at the junction of Gansu, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia provinces in a semi-arid zone with scarce precipitation; it is adjacent to the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty, and to the north is the vast Tengri Desert.
These factors determine the complex and changeable meteorology of Jingtai County, especially in the spring, cold and warm air exchanges frequently, air pressure, temperature changes dramatically, prone to dust storms, strong cold wave, hail, frost and other meteorological disasters. The poor natural conditions led to Jingtai County is a long-term national poverty county, only in 2006, due to natural disasters caused by the return of poverty, poverty caused by the population of 42,400 people, accounting for more than 15% of the county’s population at the time.
Tengger Desert, the fourth largest desert in China, the bad weather in the eastern part of the Hexi Corridor is closely related to it
So, just gently flipping through the local information or hands in the network search, you can easily find all kinds of extreme weather events in April and May in Baiyin Jingtai County.
May 5, 1993 Jingtai, Minqin, Zhongwei and other places occurred in a very large sandstorm, but also the most serious dust storm disaster in modern Chinese history, gale everywhere black waves tossed, the maximum wind speed of 37.9 m / s (equivalent to thirteen wind), suddenly day turned into night, visibility almost down to 0, a total of 116 people dead or missing, 264 people injured, the loss of livestock 120,000 head, crops The area affected was 5.6 million mu.
On May 2, 2008, a strong sandstorm occurred in Jingtai County, which only destroyed 38,300 mu of forest in the county, 40% of the newly planted 50,000 poplar trees were blown off, and the fruit yield was reduced by more than 30%.
April 24-25, 2010, Jingtai County, a strong sand and dust storms, once again reached the level of black dust storms.
Sandstorm in the west corridor of the river
On May 18, 2010, goose snow fell in many parts of the Hexi Corridor, with snow up to more than 20 cm thick.
From May 11 to 26, 2016, Baiyin and other places were hit by five consecutive strong cold waves, causing strong cooling and rain and snow, with snow accumulation of 13 cm in some areas.
On April 4, 2018, a strong sandstorm occurred in Jingtai, with instantaneous great wind speed reaching 18 m/s and wind force 10, and the lowest temperature dropped to -5℃.
On April 26, 2019, a sudden storm and hailstorm occurred in Jingtai, causing economic losses of 130 million yuan.
On May 26, 2019, heavy snow fell in most places such as Lanzhou, Baiyin and Wuwei.
Although it was the end of May, snow and ice still fell in Baiyin and other places, and the phenomenon was not uncommon
From April 11 to 12, 2020, a cold wave hit Jingtai, with the lowest temperature reaching below zero and the lowest temperature reaching -8.2℃ and frost for two consecutive days.
On May 10, 2020, frost hit Jingtai, with the minimum ground temperature dropping below 0°C in most areas.
In 2020, snowfall occurred in Jingtai and other areas on May 8-9.
In 2021, on March 15, March 29 and May 14, Jingtai was hit by dust storms one after another.
On May 3 to 4, 2021, which was before the marathon, Jingtai also experienced a strong cold wave and frost, with the lowest ground temperature dropping below 0℃ in most places ……
So, how frequent are the extreme weather in Jingtai County, Baiyin?
- According to research data from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Meteorological Bureau of Jingtai County and other agencies, during the 50 years from 1957-2006, dust storms occurred in Jingtai County an average of 13 times a year, with the most in April and May; the average area affected each year was more than 2,000 square kilometers, or nearly 40% of the county’s area.
- According to the monitoring statistics of the Lanzhou Institute of Arid Meteorology of the China Meteorological Administration and the Gansu Provincial Meteorological Bureau in Wuwei, a city near Jingtai, hailstorms occurred 232 times between May and July during the 50 years from 1961 to 2010, with an average of 4.6 times per year (Qian Li et al., 2013).
- According to the monitoring statistics of Baiyin Meteorological Bureau, 351 frosts occurred in April and May in Jingtai County during 1961-2016, with an average of 6.3 times per year (Yang et al., 2010). The average final frost day in Jingtai County is before May 31, which means that the temperature in the county may drop below 0°C until May 31.
- According to research data from the Lanzhou Institute of Arid Meteorology of the Chinese Meteorological Administration and other institutions, between 1961 and 2005, the average number of days with extreme low temperatures in the eastern part of the Hexi Corridor, including most of Jingtai County, ranged from 5 to 45 days per year, with an average of about 20 days (Li Lingping et al., 2010).
From the above weather data for Jingtai County summarized by the most authoritative meteorological research institute in China, we can conclude the following.
First, the shepherds did not lie in their interview with Xinjing News; extreme weather such as freezing rain and rapid cooling in May may be very unexpected for the mainland plains, but it is a common natural phenomenon for the northern desert fringe.
Secondly, what time and what lot of extreme weather happens is accidental and not easily predicted by the meteorological department, but in areas like Jingtai where extreme weather is common, especially in May when dust storms, frosts, snowstorms and freezing rain are at their highest, it is inevitable that extreme weather will occur. If the event organizers or authorities have a little safety awareness, should have tips for participants, as well as take relevant plans. This time, such a serious “case”, obviously not “sudden force majeure factors” so simple problem.
The local weather science data has proved that neither the organizers nor the local government took the safety of the participants seriously, and the blame for the tragedy was attributed to the unpredictable weather extremes, obviously bullying the people of the country for not understanding the desert climate in the north.
In the Confucian culture circle of Japan and South Korea, whenever there is an accident with casualties, the relevant officials often commit suicide to show their guilt and atonement for the loss of life. Although this may sound “perverted”, it reflects a respect for life and a sense of shame. We do not want the country to follow suit, but we should keep in mind the words responsibility, accountability, and integrity, which are the bottom line of being human and the bottom line of a well-functioning society.
Wei Guiying et al: Climate change characteristics of dust storms at the southern edge of the Tengger Desert – taking Jingtai County of Gansu Province as an example, Arid Zone Research, No. 6, 2015.
Li Lingping et al: Changes in extreme temperature events in the eastern Hexi Corridor from 1961 to 2005, Glacial Permafrost, Vol. 1, 2010.
Yang Xiaoling et al: Frost climate characteristics and forecasting in Wuwei, China Agricultural Meteorology, 2010, No. 4. Chen Shaoyong et al: Climate change of frost in Baiyin City and its impact on agricultural production, Journal of Gansu Science, Vol. 4, 2006.
Qian Li et al: Climatic characteristics and weather features of hail in the eastern Hexi Corridor, Arid Zone Research, 2013, No. 1.