China’s vast geographical size makes it challenging to identify the prevailing weather patterns in the country. With such a diverse climate, it can be confusing to figure out whether the winters will only amount to cold air or if it snows in China.
It does snow in China from December through February, mainly in the North, Northeast, and Northwest. Snowfall is prevalent in areas of the northern provinces, while the southern regions rarely get snow, as they typically experience warmer climates than the rest of the country.
In this post, I’ll explain more about China’s snowfall, including the areas of China commonly noted for heavy snowfall.
I’ll also share the general trends of snow depth in the country and information on the weather patterns in Beijing and Shanghai. Finally,
I’ll suggest some fun winter snow activities I’ve personally tried that you can enjoy when visiting China.
Does It Snow in China?
Snow in China occurs predominantly in the Northeast and Northwest regions, where the geography is more conducive to snowfall and stable snow covering. Occasionally, snowfall in North China may occur, but this snowfall is short-lived, lasting no more than two days.
The wind conditions coming in from Siberia influence the weather patterns that result in China’s snowfall. Additionally, snow accumulates in mountainous and hilly terrain areas where it can land and pile up. Researchers interested in predicting future weather patterns in China have identified primary snow cover areas in China that capture and accumulate the country’s most significant snowfall.
Stable snow covering in China occurs within the following regions:
- (TP) The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
- (NX) North Xinjiang
- (NC) Northeast China
Which Part of China Gets Snow?
The Northeast and Northwest parts of China get heavy snow and drawn-out winters. In these regions of the country, snow is a valuable resource as it relieves the water shortages that typically occur in the spring.
Here are some regions in the northern provinces of China that experience snowfall:
- In North China, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (especially the Greater Hinggan Mountains, Hulunbuir, and Arxan City) experiences heavy snow.
- In Northeast China, Heilongjiang Province (particularly Mudanjiang City and Harbin) receives heavy snowfall.
- Northeast China also experiences snow in Jilin Province (Changbai Mountain) and Mohe.
- In the Northwest, snowfall is most significant in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (Altay and Kansas Lake).
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that just because certain areas don’t typically experience snow doesn’t mean the winter months aren’t cold. The northern provinces’ winter weather is frigid and icy and lasts through February.
Where To Experience Snow Fun in China
If you’re interested in exploring some of China’s majestic snow scenery, book your ticket to the Heilongjiang Province and hop into a late-night Uber to see Harbin’s annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. A wonderland of ice sculptures framed in colorful lights is created by artists each year to establish a night-time, interactive ice sculpture city.
Here’s some footage from the 2017 event:
Note: The annual event has since become an international competition. Expect even better sculptures for the winters ahead.
China has a deep cultural heritage intertwined with the winter. Likewise, each snowy province has something to delight the winter enthusiast.
Winter Activities To Explore in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region
Experience the winter extravaganza with activities spanning the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, like soaking in the Arxan hot springs, the Winter Naadam Festival, and epic ski runs to challenge even the most avid skiers and snowboarders.
Other activities in China to enjoy during winter include dog sledding and downhill skiing. You can also tour around China’s Snow Town and trek the hiking trails in Mudanjiang City.
Does It Snow in Shanghai?
It does snow in Shanghai, yet not often or heavily. Shanghai has a subtropical climate, so snow may only be seen for a few days. Typically, Shanghai experiences heavy humidity and rainfall due to the prevailing subtropical maritime monsoon weather.
It may snow lightly once or twice a year, if at all, given its location and susceptibility to Siberia’s winter winds. Frigid winter air from Siberia enters Shanghai in mid-November and throughout the season. The weather conditions may lead to snowfall, but only for a few days.
Even though snow doesn’t make much of an appearance, the winter weather in Shanghai is still very cold; on average, temperatures in January don’t exceed 5°C (41°F). Even though snowfall is a rare occurrence, the winters in Shanghai are extremely cold and require sufficient winter wear to keep warm.
What Are the General Snow Depth Trends in China?
Beginning in 1980, a study investigating the influence of snowfall on vegetation compiled data illustrating the upward trend of snow depth in Northwest and Northeast China over 25 years. In the present day, the direction of increased snowfall depth continues, with 21 inches (53 cm) of snowfall reported in the Northeastern part of China in early November last year.
Why Does Beijing Not Get Snow?
Beijing generally does not get snow because the air is dry. China’s snow originates from The Siberian High (an anticyclone), which sends windy, cold, and dry air into North China. Temperatures may drop below zero in the winter, yet snowfall is rare.
For a clearer understanding of Beijing’s climate, here is a clip recapping the Winter Olympics in Beijing that shines a light on its sometimes unpredictable weather:
Siberia’s winter winds play a central role in the snowfall patterns across China. Weather phenomena like the “Siberian High” (the anticyclone) explain some of the reasons for the light, spontaneous snowfall periods in areas of Beijing and Shanghai—two regions usually absent of snowfall.
While weather patterns remain somewhat unpredictable throughout the North, what’s certain is that snowfall in the central snow-covered regions isn’t decreasing any time soon. Take advantage of the winter wonderland in China while it’s available, and if your feet get cold, you can always get a foot massage to restore your frozen tootsies.