Beijing Had the Worst Rainfall in Sixty Years? Doubtful

Background

Here’s a map of Beijing dating from 1950:

That is, out to the Second Ring Road, and here it is now:

With the former map comprising a small section in the center of the latter.

In addition, the population is three times as a great as it was in 1950:

http://books.mongabay.com/population_estimates/full/Beijing-China.html

The Story

After the rainfall this weekend, China Daily and the Xinhua New Agency published many articles stating that Beijing had suffered the worst rainfall in sixty years. They did this without providing any historical statistics. And, of course, the western press went with it, and turned it into fact. For example, take a look at this article from the BBC:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-18942984

As far as I can tell, most of the city hardest hit by the rainfall was countryside as brief as 30 years ago, let alone in 1950.

It is downright irresponsible for journalists to pass on such claims without pointing out the lack of historical measurements.

My Experience

I spent part of Saturday in the rain. And, quite frankly, it wasn’t that bad in my area (just inside of the North Fourth Ring Road). There certainly wasn’t mass chaos or anything like that. I also thought that the rain of June 24th was as bad. (I can also remember some flooding years back near the Wudaokou area that was quite bad as well.)

Final Thoughts

The few people I’ve spoken to about the rains here don’t believe the claims made by the government, and have told me that many folks on Weibo are also skeptical.

I certainly don’t doubt that the rainfall in certain areas of Beijing was quite hard. However, I think that rapid expansion, improperly constructed roads and houses, bad drainage systems, as well as drivers unfamiliar with how to drive in (read as avoid) flooded areas had more to do with the loss of life and damage caused than a “worst in sixty year” storm.

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