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Surviving Suzhou's Climate

markSurviving Suzhou’s Weather and Climate

This article was written for and is the copyright of echinacities.com

Suzhou experiences a fairly predictable pattern of weather throughout the year. In terms of its climatic specification it is termed “humid sub-tropical”, but a purist would add “neo-maritime eastern seaboard” if for no other reason than to confuse the layman!

So let the confusion end here. Suzhou has four distinct seasons:

Summer, autumn and winter are long seasons, whilst spring is so short it is often unnoticeable, as winter and summer conspire to take pieces off both ends! This table will help:

Season

Months

Temperatures

Precipitation

Summer

May – mid-September

Hot

Lot of rain

Autumn

Mid-September to November

Warm becoming cool

Some rain

Winter

Dec – mid Mar

Cold

Little rain & a less snow

Spring

Mid- March - April

Warm-Hot

Rain starts to build up

Things are not always what they seem, at the time of writing this article, at the end of November, we’ve just had a period of four days with day time highs around 17-20C, whereas a few days earlier there was a four day spell where the highest temperature was 6C and on one night it dropped to zero! Today mist envelopes the city, visibility is down to half a kilometre and temperatures are plunging once again.

The extremes can be quite unpleasant and take some getting used to. Suzhou’s winter feels  worse than the raw data indicates, there are often screamingly cold winds coming out of central Asia, the air is often moist and it can be difficult to keep warm. In the summer the humidity makes the heat oppressive; the only escape is into air conditioned interiors. Which leaves the brief spring, early summer and the autumn as the only times when life is relatively comfortable.

If you’re a visitor the ideal times to come are October or April, the former provides the best weather and the Tiger Hill festival but spring is the best time to view Suzhou’s many gardens in relative comfort.

On a day to day, week by week basis Weather Underground provides forecasts as accurate as any other. Admittedly the data comes from Hongqiao, some 70 kilometres away but it’s generally very accurate for a couple of days in advance and often even longer. On occasions Suzhou faces the wrath of a typhoon that’s plunged into the interior. Whilst these will not generally present a threat if you’re indoors, with the amount of construction going on loose objects can become deadly missiles. I’ve personally witnessed a piece of sheet metal two metres square flying past a sixth floor apartment. These are rare occurrences but it’s worth keeping an eye on the forecast and Weather Underground is ideal.

For residents it’s a matter of adapting as best you can. In general, although not consistently, many clothes sold here are not cut to fit the bigger frames of Europeans or Americans. It could be argued that bringing along clothes for all seasons is essential. For those in the know however, nearly everything can be made here, for a similar or lower price than the item can be bought off the shelves back home, and this includes garments made from silk and cashmere that are particularly effective in the numbing cold. The advice, if you’re not on a tight budget, would be to bring clothes appropriate for your time of arrival and quickly arrange to visit a tailors for some bespoke items that will see you through the year’s variations, and to a bedding store for the essential silk duvets.

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