My second “What’s Hot and What’s Not” post and how it affects our daily lives in Hong Kong.
What’s hot – THE WEATHER!
Well, it’s not exactly hot right now but it sure is pleasant.
We are currently in the middle of Hong Kong’s winter season (Jan/Feb). The temperature has been 15 to 19 degrees Celsius (on the plus side, please note my Canadian friends) since December which, coming from Canada, seems pretty fantastic to me. I have worn my wool car coat a couple of times, but mostly a light jacket and scarf will suffice. It’s funny to see people all bundled up in down jackets and big scarves and hats – the locals seem to go in for that in a big way. In fairness, a lot of buildings do not have heating so I can imagine it is uncomfortable for many. But there have been times in the last couple of months when it has felt just like a lovely May day in Ottawa. I’m good with that.
Throughout the year, daily temperatures range about four degrees from morning lows to afternoon highs. Over a whole year, temperatures will range from about 15 to 33 degrees (a far cry from the -35 to +35 we can get in Ottawa!), yet we really can feel distinct differences in the four seasons here. We have been waiting for weather events like typhoons, which occur here from May to September, but it seems that 2014 was a very slow typhoon season with only a baby typhoon blowing through in late September. In fact, it has been very dry here since last summer with few rainy days. I’m amazed things stay so green all year long.
We have experienced all seasons here except spring (March to May) which I’m told will be in the low- to mid-20s, humid and rainy. Summer, especially July and August, is wiltingly hot. The temperature will be between 29 and 33, which in itself isn’t so bad but the humidity will tick up to 95% and that’s the real kicker. Still, I always carry a sweater in order to deal with the ultra-frigid air conditioning that blasts everywhere. Even shops opening up to the street will have air-con going full tilt. My eye glasses always fogged up when I stepped from inside to outside last summer.
The fall season (Sept to early Dec), is lovely. The humidity drops, the sun shines and the temperature is comfortable in the low- to mid-20s. It’s a welcome relief. You can literally feel the tap water getting cooler.
I love the “Weather Observatory” forecasts here. Forecasts for five consecutive days will read something like: “Sunny periods.” “Mainly cloudy with sunny breaks.” “Mainly cloudy with sunny intervals.” “Dry with sunny periods.” “Mostly fine.” These forecasts are an exercise in nuance.
What’s not – AIR QUALITY!
I think I’ve been keeping my head in the sand about this issue, but this can no longer be ignored.
That banner picture at the top of this blog wasn’t taken recently, that’s for sure. The last few weeks have been noticeably awful in terms of air pollution. The locals are grumbling too so I know it’s not just my imagination.
It’s a bit tricky to find air quality measurements here in Hong Kong as they aren’t offered as part of the weather forecast. Once you find them, you have to take them with a grain of particulate matter because Hong Kong doesn’t use World Health Organisation standards for clean air. The standards used here, besides being twenty years out of date, are considerably sanitized.
Hong Kong’s Air Quality Health Index is graded on a scale from 1 to 10 and 10+, grouped into categories of low, moderate, high, very high and serious risk to health. It is measured at general and roadside monitoring stations in different parts of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. Hong Kong’s air quality objective for particulates is 180, whereas the WHO’s is 50. According to WHO standards, only 10 percent of days here are acceptable, but by Hong Kong’s AQHI standards, only 30% are deemed dangerous.
There are loads of reasons for the high air pollution here, among them the density of road traffic and power plants. However, a major source is our neighbour to the north: China.
This brings me back to seasons here in Hong Kong, specifically monsoon season. I always thought monsoons were massive rainstorms that cause flooding and such. They do, but they are really about a reversal of wind direction. Usually, winds here blow up from the south seas and disperse our pollution. However, we are currently in a winter monsoon season which sees dry, cool winds coming down from the north, and that means all that lovely stuff from China is blowing right here to Hong Kong. Ugh.
I’m told this particular period of intense air pollution is typical for this time of year and shouldn’t last too much longer. Also, the government has come up with a “Clean Air Plan” which is apparently pretty good although it will take time for its results to show. In the meantime, “take a deep breath” is really something you only want to do figuratively rather than literally.
P.S. Thanks to all of you who offered warm wishes for my mom’s recovery. I am happy to report that she is doing extremely well and we are celebrating what was really the best possible outcome from her surgery. She came through with flying colours and is doing great!