China Drought Exposes Ancient Stone Island in Middle of Dry Lake

Ongoing severe droughts in China have exposed an ancient island that is normally submerged in a lake.

China is experiencing a heatwave and drought this year unlike anything seen in decades, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in various regions across the country, according to the state-run news outlet the Global Times.

This, coupled with a lack of rain in some provincial capitals, has led to such dry conditions that China's largest freshwater lake, Poyang Lake, appears to hardly be a body of water at all in some locations.

It's actually common for the shallow lake, which is fed by multiple rivers, to enter a dry season which reveals the base of the historic Luoxingdun Island that's normally partially underwater, the South China Morning Post reported. However, this year marks the earliest date in 71 years that the island can be fully seen.

Luoxingdun
Above, Luoxingdun, an ancient island situated in China's Poyang Lake, is seen during a dry spell in January 2015. The lake is exhibiting effects of drought this year, according to Chinese news outlets. VCG/Getty

Now, the 1,000-year-old island appears to be surrounded by grassland rather than water. Poyang Lake has exhibited increasingly lower water levels over time due in part to droughts as well as dams on the Yangtze river, according to the South China Morning Post.

China's ongoing heatwave and drought conditions are not only affecting Poyang Lake this year; autumn harvests and power generation are also being tested.

Sunday marked the tenth consecutive day in which China's Central Meteorological Center issued a red alert for extreme heat—the highest possible tier of its weather warning system.

Luoxingdun
Above, the Luoxingdun islet is shown partially submerged in China's Jiangxi province in July 2020—a year with dangerous flood activity. A severe drought has now uncovered an ancient island in Poyang Lake. STR/AFP/Getty

Amid the heat and drought, hydroelectric power dams upon which some cities such as Sichuan rely heavily have seen vast reductions in output. Sichuan's daily hydropower generation was reported to have dropped by around 51 percent as of Saturday.

Due to the power problems, some residents there have been asked to work from home to save energy, and the local government is also asking people to limit how low their air conditioners are running, according to the Global Times.

For Poyang Lake, drought conditions are only part of the problem. High demand for building materials like glass and concrete in China has made Poyang Lake a sitting duck for sand dredging, Reuters reported last year. This activity is thought to be contributing to recent abnormally low water levels in the lake in recent decades, prompting the government to restrict sand mining activities to some extent.

Poyang Lake is a national nature reserve, home to over 300 species of migratory birds including the critically endangered Siberian crane. It's also a key flood outlet for the Yangzte river.

Drought conditions are also being felt in parts of the United States, with large parts of the south and west experiencing 'exceptional drought'—the most severe kind—according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.