China Weather

China - a country of climatic contrasts

The country of China is vast, and is often divided into China proper and the outer territories. China proper consists of the coastal regions fronting the Pacific Ocean and the valleys of the three great rivers; the Huang He, Chiang Jiang and the Xi Jiang. This is the most populated and productive part of China. The outer territories are Manchuria in the northeast, Inner Mongolia in the north, Xinjiang Uygur in the west and Tibet in the southwest.

Some of the most mountainous country in the world borders China, which helps to make the climate very distinctive in certain areas. The majority of China is dominated by the Asiatic monsoon which in the winter months (October-April) is characterised by a great high pressure which develops over Siberia and central Asia, bringing dry weather. In the summer months (May-September) the opposite is true as the continent of Asia heats up low pressure forms, bringing warm, moisture laden winds from the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The summer months are therefore much wetter for large areas of China, and are commonly known as the "monsoon season". The reliability of the seasonal weather across more populated areas of China has led to great productivity in agriculture. 

The lattitude of China also plays a large part in its climate. While most of the country has warm to hot summers, there is a great difference in winter temperatures from north to south and from the mountainous west to the oceanic east. The outer territories often have extremely cold, even severe winters. The Tibetan plateau is surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the Himalayas and indeed the world, and has cool summers and very cold winters. In contrast, south and central areas have a tropical or sub-tropical climate where winters remain warm. Eastern China is typically wet in the summer, whereas the northern and western regions contain deserts and have very little or no precipitation throughout the year. 


China by region

Southern China

This region is adjacent to the South China Sea and is intersected by the Tropic of Cancer. This makes Southern China the warmest and wettest part of the country with hot, humid summers and mild winters. The monsoon season brings heavy rain between May and September, while tropical cyclones and typhoons often make landfall, bringing destructive winds and flooding rain. Typhoon activity peaks between July-October. Humidity in the summer is extreme, and can be oppressive. The drier season is between October and March. Winters are mild and frost is exceptionally rare, if not unknown.The sunniest, driest, and probably mist comfortable time to visit is between the months of October-January. 

Central China

This area lies to the north of the tropics in the convergence zone between cold Siberian air and warmer moisture laden air from the Pacific. As a result the weather can be rather changeable throughout the year. Summers are typically warm and humid. Coastal regions in the east are prone to heavy rain, tropical cyclones and typhoons. Further inland summers are drier and less humid. Winters are changeable with periods of wet weather, and also colder spells with frost and snow. Overall winters tend to be drier, particularly in inland areas of Central China. 

Southwest China

This area shares a land border with Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar to the south and is seperated from Tibet by the Himalayas to the north. The area is hilly and even mountainous in some places. This region of China is said to have the most pleasant climate throughout the year. The altitude has a large part to play in the climate of the region, cooling the temperatures in the height of the summer and also providing some shelter in the deep valleys from the summer rains. The winter is often mild, sunny and dry, although frost and snow from the north can sometimes affect higher peaks. 

Southwestern Mountains

The Tibetan plateau and Himalayas to the south are home to some of the highest peaks in the world, including Mount Everest which shares a border with Nepal to the southwest. It is known as "the roof of the world" due to it's altitude. As a result, winters are severe with hard frosts, strong winds and frequent light snow in the mountains. High pressure forms over the plateau in winter, and as a result it can be very dry but extremely cold, with a frost for months at a time. During the summer warm air is drawn into the region by the monsoon winds which brings rain to the plateau and further snow to the mountains. Summer days can be pleasantly warm but temperatures tend to plummet overnight. Some more sheltered areas of Tibet receive little or precipitation, with sunny conditions all year round.

Western Desert

As the name suggests, the climate of this sparsely populated area is extreme. Very low temperatures, as low as -20 Celsius in the winter are often accentuated by strong winds. In the summer, temperatures can be very high, up to 40 Celsius. Due to it's location in the rain shadow of the Himalayas and far inland from any body of water, there is little precipitation throughout the year, making this a harsh environment. 

North & Northwest China

Deserts, grasslands and mountain ranges make this region another one of extremes. Siberia and Mongolia lie to the north and are a source of cold air in the winter when high pressure lies across the continent. Snow can lie in some areas for 100-150 days a year, with a frost for months on end. Typical lows of -20 Celsius are common. Strong winds in the winter and spring can accentuate the cold and raise harsh dust clouds in the Gobi desert. Summers are typically very dry and hot (up to 37 Celsius) but some monsoon rain can make it to southern areas; otherwise the landscape can be barren. 

Northeastern China

This large area is also subject to seasonal extremes due to the monsoon. Winters are cold and harsh across the whole of Northeastern China, especially when strong winds blow out of the continent. They are typically very dry, but frost and light snow are not uncommon. In the far north of Manchuria snow can lie for almost half of the year, with rivers frozen for months. 

Summers on the other hand see a reversal of the winds, bringing moisture from the Pacific. They are warm and can be very humid, especially in the south towards Beijing. The summer brings more rain, making the great lowland areas rich for cultivation.