Monday was the beginning of the lunar calendar’s coldest period of the year — traditionally known as xiaohan. But many parts of eastern China, including Shanghai, were unseasonably warm.
Shanghai’s daytime temperature broke an 80-year record, becoming the warmest day of xiaohan since the previous record of 21 degrees Celsius on Jan. 6, 1940. According to the city’s meteorological bureau, the mercury rose to 21.1 degrees at noon Monday.
An increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in recent years has contributed to a warmer planet, resulting in rising sea levels, extreme weather, and changing climate conditions. The global average temperature in 2019 was about 1.1 degrees above the pre-industrial period, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
Cities across China, too, have been experiencing hotter summers. The average air temperature in July 2018 was 22.9 degrees — 1 degree hotter than the historical average, according to the China Meteorological Administration.
China Weather, the forecast agency under the meteorological administration, had earlier predicted Monday and Tuesday’s maximum temperatures to hit 20 degrees in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, with minimum temperatures at around 10 degrees.
“In cities like Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Nanchang, the highest temperature is expected to exceed 20 degrees — 10 degrees higher than the average during the same period in recent years,” China Weather said on microblogging platform Weibo. “Such warmth is very rare in January.”
China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and the effects of climate change in the country have been alarming. A 2019 government report noted that the country saw a significant increase in the annual average surface temperature between 1901 and 2018, with the last two decades becoming the warmest period since the beginning of the 20th century.
“With global warming, warm winters are becoming increasingly common,” Wu Rui, chief service officer at the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau, told Sixth Tone. “Many places, such as in Hangzhou and the Yangtze River Delta, have experienced record-breaking warm temperatures this winter.”
On Dec. 16, Shanghai’s temperature also exceeded 20 degrees, making it the highest mid-December temperature recorded in the city’s meteorological history. The Shanghai Climate Center listed the unusually warm day as one of last year’s “10 weather and climate incidents” for the city.
Shanghai’s high average temperatures between August and December have lately been on the rise, according to meteorologists. The average temperature for December last year reached 9.7 degrees, or 2.4 degrees higher than average, marking the second-highest point in recorded history.
Monday’s warm spell, however, is temporary: The Shanghai Meteorological Bureau said the temperature will plummet to a chilly 8 degrees on Wednesday.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: A couple in summer clothes crosses the street in Shanghai, Jan. 6, 2020. Shi Yangkun/Sixth Tone)