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Intense cold waves bring rare snowfall to Taiwan


An intense cold wave is affecting parts of Taiwan over the past couple of days, with temperatures dropping below 10 °C (50 °F) and rare snow and freezing temperatures at higher elevations. In just 17 hours to Friday morning, January 8, 2021, local authorities reported 18 sudden deaths. While the cause is most likely cold weather, officials said an investigation is still in progress.

  • This is the second blast of very cold air and snow to hit the country since the end of December 2020. 
  • The third wave is expected on Monday, January 11.

Taiwan's mountainous areas were the first to feel the effects, with temperatures down to the freezing point and rare snowfall. While the highest elevations of the country have at least some snow each winter, some places saw their first snow in several years on Friday.

This made thousands of people to head into the mountains over the weekend.

YouTube video

YouTube video

YouTube video

Local authorities said 18 people died suddenly in just 17 hours to Friday morning. While the cause might be cold, officials said an investigation is still in progress.

In the capital of Taipei, seven people were rushed to emergency rooms between 19:00 LT on Thursday, January 7 and 12:00 LT on Friday, with no vital signs upon arrival.

According to Taiwan's Central News Agency, all seven, who average 80 years of age, fell down at their homes, but city officials said further investigation will be needed to see if their falls and eventual deaths were triggered by the cold wave.

For the same reason, 8 people were rushed to hospitals without any vital signs in neighboring New Taipei, with only two of them surviving.

Two deaths were reported in Taoyuan and 1 in Keelung. Four deaths were reported in Yunlin County during the same time period that may have also been related to the cold.

Image credit: JMA/Himawari-8, RAMMB/CIRA, TW. Acquired 07:20 UTC on January 10, 2021

The first cold wave of the season hit the country earlier than expected on Wednesday, December 30, 2020, when many weather stations in Northern Taiwan registered steep drops of 8 to 10 °C (14 – 18 °F) from 00:00 LT to 08:00 LT.

YouTube video

YouTube video

The second wave arrived on Thursday, January 7, bringing with it the coldest air of the season and prompting Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau (CWB) to issue a Cold Surge Advisory for all of Taiwan's 22 cities and counties.

The weather station in Tamsui, New Taipei, registered 5.6 °C (42 °F) at 12:18 LT on Friday, the lowest this season, according to CWB data. Tainan and Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan also recorded season lows — 8.9 °C (48 °F) and 10.6 °C (51 °F), respectively.

Keelung, Taipei, New Taipei, and Taoyuan cities as well as Hsinchu, Miaoli, and Yilan counties in northern Taiwan and the offshore Kinmen and Lienchiang counties were expected to see lows of around 6 °C (43 °F) on Saturday, January 9. 

Temperatures of around 10 °C (50 °F) were forecast for Hsinchu City in the north, Taichung City and Changhua, Nantou and Yunlin counties in central Taiwan, Chiayi city and county in the south, and Hualien County in the east.

The cold surge will continue affecting the country through daytime Sunday, with just a slight rise in temperatures.

The temperatures are forecast to fall again on Monday, January 11 as another cold surge hits the island, while showers are likely in eastern Taiwan and mountainous areas in central and southern parts of the country.

CWB is urging residents of New Taipei and Hualien to take precautions, as ground-level lows of below 6 and 10 °C (43 and 50°F), respectively, can be expected, and temperatures of below 12 °C (54 °F) will last for at least 24 hours.

An Orange Cold Surge Advisory is in effect through Monday morning for New Taipei City and Hualien County and Yellow for Yulan and Kinmen counties.

Taiwan has a tropical climate, with mild winters and hot summers. 

In winter, northern parts of the country have an average maximum temperature of around 18 °C (64 °F), rarely dropping to highs of about 10 or 12 °C (°50 / 54 °F).

 Night-time temperatures in the north are rarely cold and never drop below freezing. 

Featured image: GFS 850 hPa Temperature Anomaly for January 9, 2021. Credit: TropicalTidbits


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  1. I honestly no longer understand the weather in the USA. We have having one of the most mild winters on record. Our ski hill businesses are being killed by the lack of snow and the Covid lock down. Many areas of the USA have seen no significant snow accumulation in 2020-21 carrying on a decade of very mild winters. This has been extensively documented in an article written by the Detroit Free Press. You may wish to review it.

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