Cold weather comes early to East Asia as energy crisis looms in China

In Taiwan, October 17, northeasterly monsoonal winds brought an early cooling respite from the hellish heat of a long, hot summer, but parts of China saw sub-zero temperatures arrive the earliest in more than half a century, and snow fell in Japan a half-month earlier than last year.

In Hokkaido, Japan, the cities of Wakkanai and Asahikawa saw the first snow, Sunday, 17 days earlier than last year, the Sapporo District Meteorological Observatory announced.

All-Nippon News Network reported that under the influence of strong cold air mass, the atmospheric pressure distribution around Japan has changed to a winter pattern, and low temperatures are already comparable to those in November last year.

In Beijing and other areas of northern China, temperatures dropped to below zero in the early morning of October 17, the earliest date in 52 years.

A temperature of -0.2°C at 6:44 am Sunday was the lowest recorded in the 10 days from October 11 to 20 by a city observatory since 1969, Xinhua Net reported.

The China Meteorological Administration issued a cold wave warning October 16 for central and eastern parts of the interior, and southern North China, with below zero warnings for central Beijing, central Hebei, northwester Shanxi, and central and western Shanxi. The lowest temperature forecast was for Tianchi Lake, Jilin, at -19°C.

Nanshan Ecological Park, Gansu Province covered in snow
 Nanshan Ecological Park in Pingliang, Northwest China’s Gansu province, October 10, 2021. Photo: Xinhua.

The cold snap is expected to have greatly increased demands on an already strained energy supply.

Even Chinese Communist Party propaganda rag Global Times reported that the cold snap has the public worried of a colder than average winter that will likely drive up energy demand and put strain on the grid.

“The municipal heating systems started ahead of schedule in some cities of Northeast China. Mohe, the northeastern tip of China’s territory, started its eight-month heating season on September 17, two days earlier than the previous year, which was already considered a cold winter for the region,” Global Times reported.

“…an early cold wave will drive up heating and power demand, which could be a challenge for the country, which is already short of power,” Global Times quoted an unnamed expert as saying. 

Coal shortages, and consequently, power outages, have dogged Chinese households and factories for the last few months, and the problems are expected to be compounded in the freezing winter, The Financial Times recently reported.

While the Chinese government has ordered the expansion of currently operating coal mines, and the reopening of around 150 mines previously closed down, electricity prices have already risen by 20%, and residents in the three northeastern provinces, in particular, are “worried that if the power rationing system is not alleviated, it will be difficult to survive the winter this year,” according to an Apple Daily report.

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