Months of unusually low rainfall has cut the flow of China's biggest river,stalling the movement of freight on a key reach of the Yangtze.According to the China Daily website, closure to shipping is being undertakento prevent the grounding of ships, owing to low water levels.

Wikipedia Commons image showslocation of Yangtze River.Officials responsible for the waterway were reported as stating that the riverwas closed between Wuhan and Yueyang, a distance of about 115 miles.

Weather data accessed by shows that rainfall across a vast areadrained by the Yangtze has been only one-half to two-thirds of normal sincelast October. Since the start of March, many of these same areas have had onlyone-third to one-half of normal rainfall.

At Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province, rainfall since the first ofOctober has been only 47 percent of normal. Since the start of March, only 33percent of normal rain has fallen.

The low rainfall coincided with the yearly dry season, resulting in even lessrunoff than usual into the streams and rivers feeding the Yangtze.

Impact of the low rainfall has not been confined to river shipping. Accordingto the China Daily, much of central, northern and southwestern China hassuffered crop losses and water shortages, affecting millions of people.

Story by Jim Andrews, Senior Meteorologist