How to Survive the Harsh Shanghai Climate
Before moving to Shanghai, you check the yearly temperatures and climate. You think you’ve got a grasp on exactly what’s in store. However, the climate in Shanghai is a tricky one that surprises most foreigners.
While there are four distinct seasons in Shanghai’s climate, they aren’t as typical as you would assume based on the temperatures.
Spring is a short-lived time in Shanghai. Coming off an extremely cold winter, the first day of warm sunshine will be a pleasant surprise! But keep that electric blank on hand because there will be days where those northwestern winds will hit and it’ll feel like you’re back in the middle of winter!
March and April are tricky months. In March, the metro stations and most business will continue blasting the heat even on days where the temperatures increase to 20 °C (68 °F). When April hits, the air conditioners will turn on and those spring days or nights where the temperatures hit on the lower side of 10 degrees, an extra layer of fabric, be it a scarf or sweater, is a handy accessory to have on hand.
Shanghai climate in Spring is all about layers..and rain boots! May is the beginning of typhoon season. Be prepared for those unexpected rain showers with a sturdy umbrella, high rain boots, and even a poncho if you plan on biking or scootering around the city.
Shanghai really blossoms in the Spring. Locals and expats alike come out of hibernation, all the trendy rooftops are suddenly buzzing for brunch and late night drinks. Festivals, markets and gardens re-open and you’ll have a hard time deciding each weekend just what to do!
Due to Spring wavering between hot and cold, the first full stretch of warmth and sunshine is officially summertime in Shanghai and it typically comes at the end of May. By this time, everyone is eager to slip out of their fleece leggings and cashmere sweaters to bare a bit of skin. Expats begin checking out the newly renovated trendy rooftop pools and planning their patio barbeques.
And then it happens, the temperature sky rockets to 35-43 °C (95-109 °F) degrees, humidity reaches between 80-100% and June and July are suddenly not such a welcome sight. It’s muggy, rainy and you can’t step outside without feeling like you need to take a shower for the tenth time that day.
The streets are empty come midday and those locals that must brave the harsh rays walk around with umbrellas to shield their sensitive skin while expats retreat to their air conditioned homes or offices.
Lots of fruit, water, ice cream, a rooftop pool membership, a change of clothes if you’re walking or biking to work or breathable dry fit clothing are the only ways to survive Shanghai’s sweaty summers.
Mid-Autumn Festival brings Fall to Shanghai. Much like Spring, the days can vary in temperatures in late September and early October from 15-25 °C (59-77 °F) degrees so layers will slowly start adding up.
Fall brings leather jackets, cozy sweaters, scarves, flannels, and boots- but make sure they’re comfortable because Shanghai is such a walk-able (or biker friendly) city!
By Halloween, heaters and electric blankets will slowly begin turning on, and you’ll quickly begin unpacking all your winter attire you were so eager to pack away in Spring. November balances between Fall and Winter. There will be days you’re layering your fleece and extra warm heat tech undergarments beneath your clothes and days where a simple leather jacket over a t-shirt are enough.
Winter can creep up on you from Fall. Shanghai certainly doesn’t give you a winter wonderland of snow. There are possibly 1 or 2 days of snowfall but nothing that actually sticks around for snow angels. The lack of snow, mixed with the northwestern Siberian winds and the East China Sea make it an extremely chilly winter, though. Once that wind hits you, it chills your bones and makes it extremely difficult to warm up again. This is where electric hand and foot warmers, heat packs, electric blankets under your sheets and on your couch, heat tech undergarments, a down or wool winter jacket, and an efficient heating system make all the difference.
While Shanghai’s climate isn’t the most ideal year-round, the culture, diversity, and food will have you sticking around to bare the harsh climate and explore all that the city has to offer!