China country overview

The land of China

Geography, People, Culture, and Economic Profile

China information index

Climate of China

The air masses

China’s expansive and geographically diverse territory is situated within Asia, the largest continent on Earth, and boasts an extensive coastline along the Pacific Ocean, the planet’s largest body of water. Consequently, China’s climate is significantly shaped by the seasonal migration of substantial air masses between the Pacific and the mainland of China. In the winter months, the Siberian polar continental air mass, which originates in the northern regions of Siberia, exerts a dominant influence over much of China. Conversely, during the summer season, the tropical Pacific air mass plays a significant role. The stark contrast in climatic conditions experienced during the summer and winter seasons can be attributed to the interplay between these two fundamentally distinct air masses.

The Siberian air mass is characterized by its remarkable stability, extreme coldness, and dryness, often accompanied by pronounced temperature inversions. As this air mass traverses the Mongolian Plateau and advances southward, it begins to affect North China, where it undergoes rapid transformations, including a slight increase in temperature and reduced stability. This results in considerable diurnal temperature fluctuations, which can be as moderate as 18 °F (10 °C) or, in more extreme instances, surpass 45 °F (25 °C). Due to the predominant influence of this air mass, North China experiences dry conditions, clear skies, and abundant sunshine throughout the winter.

The dominant winter wind, active from November to March, alters its trajectory as it progresses southward. In northern and northeastern China, the wind originates from the northwest, from the north in eastern China, and from the northeast along the southeastern coastlines. The altitude of the winter wind belt typically does not exceed 13,000 feet (4,000 meters), but this elevation diminishes further south; near Nanjing, it reaches approximately 6,500 feet (2,000 meters), and in Southern China, it falls below 5,000 feet (1,500 meters). The Qin Mountains serve as a formidable barrier, particularly in the west, where their average elevation ranges between 6,500 and 9,000 feet (2,000 and 2,700 meters), impeding the southward progression of cold waves.

During the summer, the tropical Pacific air mass becomes the primary source of rainfall for China, covering the eastern half of the country and extending into the peripheries of the Mongolian Plateau and the eastern fringes of the Tibetan Plateau. While the Siberian air mass withdraws to the western extremities of Mongolia, it occasionally moves southward, reaching as far as the Huai River valley, which often serves as a zone of contention between the tropical Pacific and Siberian air masses.

The interplay between these two air masses holds profound implications for the climate of central and North China. In the summer, the tropical air mass’s dominance causes the frontal zone separating the two to shift northward, resulting in increased rainfall in North China. However, when the southeastern monsoon weakens, this frontal zone migrates southward, leading to enhanced rainfall in central China, which can precipitate flooding. During the winter, the influence of the tropical Pacific air mass is confined to the southeastern coastal regions, leading to frequent drizzles in the hilly zones south of the Nan Mountains and common occurrences of morning fog.

In addition to these two primary air masses, three others—the equatorial continental (a highly unstable southwest monsoon), the polar maritime, and the equatorial maritime air masses—also contribute to the climatic patterns of China. Given the country’s vast size and intricate topography, the interactions between these air masses and the geographical relief produce an extensive array of climatic conditions across China.

Temperature of China

Temperature patterns in China exhibit a clear gradient, with a general decline as one moves from the southern regions towards the north. The average annual temperature exceeds 68°F (20°C) in the Pearl River basin. This average temperature moderates to a range of 59 to 68°F (15 to 20°C) within the central and lower Yangtze areas, diminishes to approximately 50°F (10°C) across North China and the southern portion of Xinjiang, and further reduces to 41°F (5°C) in the southern part of the Northeast, the northern region of Xinjiang, and vicinities adjacent to the Great Wall. In the northern sector of Heilongjiang, the temperature regularly falls below the freezing point of 32°F (0°C). The annual temperature variation from the southernmost to the northernmost points is roughly 86°F (48°C). Typically, January is the coldest month, while July is the warmest across the country.

To the south of the demarcation formed by the Qin Mountains and Huai River, the mean temperature for January progressively increases from the freezing point to a balmy 72°F (22°C) along Hainan Island’s southern coast. In these southern locales, snowfall is a rarity and rivers remain unfrozen. Conversely, north of this line, temperatures can plummet from the freezing mark down to a frigid −18°F (−28°C) in the northern reaches of Heilongjiang.

By April, the entire nation, with the exception of the farthest northern parts of Heilongjiang, experiences mean temperatures above the freezing threshold. At this time, the Northeast Plain sees average temperatures ranging from 36 to 46°F (2 to 8°C), while the expansive plains stretching between Beijing and Shanghai have mean temperatures between 54 and 59°F (12 and 15°C). South of the Nan Mountains, the mean temperature is significantly higher than 68°F (20°C). In southern Guangdong, willow trees begin to sprout buds by late January, whereas in Beijing, this budding phase does not occur until early April.

During the summer months, the temperature disparity between the northern and southern regions of China is relatively minor. In July, the temperature differential between Guangzhou and Beijing is a mere 5°F (3°C), with isotherms for the month running nearly parallel to the coastline. A notable isotherm of 82°F (28°C) encompasses a broad area during July. The warmest areas in China are typically found along the valleys of the central and lower Yangtze, where cities like Nanchang and Changsha frequently experience mean July temperatures well above 84°F (29°C), occasionally surpassing 86°F (30°C).

In North China, autumn temperatures are generally cooler than those in spring. For instance, the mean temperature in Beijing for October is around 55°F (13°C), whereas in April it is approximately 57°F (14°C). The opposite trend is observed in South China, where the mean temperature in Guangzhou is 75°F (24°C) in October, but only about 70°F (21°C) in April.

The middle and lower stretches of the Huang He (Yellow River) are historically significant as the cradle of Chinese civilization and agriculture. Here, the seasonal changes are pronounced and evenly distributed throughout the year. However, in other parts of China, the duration and onset of each season can vary significantly. For example, the northern part of Heilongjiang lacks a distinct summer season, while the southern region of Guangdong does not experience a true winter. In Kunming, situated in the Yunnan highlands, the climate remains temperate year-round, with only brief periods of summer and winter.

Agriculturally, regions south of the Qin Mountains–Huai River line rarely see mean daily temperatures drop below freezing, allowing for year-round farming activities. In the Yangtze valley, it is common to harvest two crops annually, but beyond the Great Wall, the climate permits only one crop cycle per year.

Precipitation of China

In China, precipitation patterns exhibit a similar distribution to temperature gradients, with a gradual decrease from the southeast toward the northwest. The southeastern coastal regions accumulate an annual precipitation exceeding 80 inches (2,000 mm), while the Yangtze valley experiences approximately 40 to 45 inches (1,000 to 1,150 mm) of rainfall each year. Moving north to the Huai River valley, the annual precipitation diminishes to around 35 inches (880 mm). In the lower Huang He basin, the figures are even lower, with annual rainfall ranging between 20 to 25 inches (500 to 650 mm). The Northeast, in contrast, receives more precipitation than the North China Plain, with the Changbai Mountains seeing in excess of 40 inches annually.

As the southeast monsoon advances northward to the Loess Plateau, it loses much of its moisture, resulting in a reduced annual precipitation of 12 to 20 inches (300 to 500 mm). Beyond a line connecting the Da Hinggan, Yin, Lang, Qilian, and Altun mountain ranges, the annual precipitation drops below 10 inches (250 mm). This decrease is attributed to the region’s distance from the sea and the barrier posed by high mountains, which prevent the southern monsoon from reaching these areas, characterized by grasslands. In the western parts of Inner Mongolia, the Gansu Corridor, and the Tarim Basin, the annual precipitation plummets to less than 4 inches (100 mm), creating conditions of true desert where periods without any rainfall can extend for several years.

The Junggar Basin and the Ili River valley in northern Xinjiang are influenced by the westerlies, leading to higher precipitation levels. On the Tibetan Plateau, the precipitation also follows the national trend of decreasing from southeast to northwest. The southeastern valleys of the plateau receive more than 40 inches of rain per year, while the eastern edge gets about 20 inches. The enclosed Qaidam Basin in the north, however, only sees an annual total of 4 to 10 inches.

China’s climate is marked by a high variability in precipitation. Generally, as the annual precipitation decreases, the variability increases, which is linked to the frequent occurrences of droughts and floods in the country. The spring season, which is crucial for agriculture, also exhibits the greatest variability in rainfall. In South China, this variability exceeds 40 percent, around 45 percent in the Yangtze region, and more than 50 percent in North China. Some areas in North China, including regions east of Beijing, experience spring rainfall variability that can surpass 70 percent, a pattern also observed in central parts of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau.

Rainfall predominantly occurs during the summer, coinciding with the peak water requirements of plants, which is beneficial for agriculture. However, the intensity of summer rainfall is often excessive. In July, as the frontal zone moves north, cyclonic activity increases in North China, resulting in heavier rainfall compared to the south. Over half of the North China Plain experiences daily rainfall of 0.8 inch (20 mm), with some areas receiving daily amounts exceeding 1 inch (25 mm). Meanwhile, the southern regions below the Yangtze experience more stable weather conditions due to the influence of the tropical Pacific air mass, leading to decreased rainfall and lower average intensity compared to June. Generally, the intensity of rainfall in August is less than that of July.

In the southeastern coastal areas near Fuzhou and Shantou, the maximum daily rainfall can approach 12 inches (300 mm). This is closely associated with the high frequency of typhoons impacting this part of the coast, predominantly from May to November, with the peak months being July, August, and September.

Typhoons typically make landfall south of Shantou in May, shifting northward in June to areas between Shantou and Wenzhou, and further north past Wenzhou after July. August experiences the highest frequency of typhoon landfalls, accounting for over one-third of the typhoons reaching China. The frequency diminishes after September, with the pattern shifting southward once more. In October, typhoons usually hit south of Wenzhou, while the late-season typhoons in November and December tend to strike south of Shantou.

brics | ICP

and Cooperation

The Information and Cooperation platform IN4U is a digital hub for BRICS members to collaborate, share information, and promote cooperative initiatives. Stay connected and engaged with the latest developments.


The cooperative

The Cooperative Framework of BRICS by IN4U platform is a dedicated digital space for fostering collaboration and cooperation among inter BRICS government entities and international organizations.

BRICS Collaboration Made Easy: Access info & cooperation tools on IN4U.

This website stores cookies on your computer. Privacy Policy