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2016: Hong Kong’s year of weather extremes in pictures

Hong Kong’s extraordinary weather events in 2016 as captured by South China Morning Post photographers

2016 was a year of weather records in Hong Kong. At least a dozen new records [1] were set as typhoons, heavy rains and baking heat hit the city. As ever, South China Morning Post photographers were out and about enduring the severe conditions firsthand and documenting the climatic events as they happened.

A freezing January

The year began with an historic cold blast for the city and a phenomena many locals had never experienced – frost and freezing rain. Average temperatures plummeted to just 3.1 degrees Celsius, the third lowest ever recorded in Hong Kong. A new record low was set on the city’s highest peak Tai Mo Shan, which hit minus 5 degrees at its coldest point. The Hong Kong Observatory attributed the freezing conditions to one of the side effects of climate change – a polar vortex, which normally circled the Arctic, had distorted and pushed a blast of cold air south.



Some 45 people were hospitalised as ‘frost chasers’ travelled to Tai Mo Shan peak to experience the chilly conditions firsthand. Some were injured after slipping on the icy roads, while others who weren’t dressed warm enough, suffered hypothermia.


A foggy February

February in Hong Kong saw its fair share of ups and downs. While temperatures rose to 22 degrees in the second week, they swiftly fell again to just 11 degrees by the beginning of the third. Thanks to a maritime airstream and an intense northeast monsoon, the weather brought with it foggy conditions, which made for dramatic photographs of Victoria Harbour.



Winter’s procession into March

Hong Kong maintained its gloomy conditions well into March, with temperatures almost two degrees lower than average, making it one of the coldest starts to spring in more than a decade. More than 148mm of rain fell during the month, almost double the average.


It was Hong Kong’s third month in a row with colder than average temperatures. The mean temperature for the month was just 17.4 degrees, compared with the usual monthly average of 19.1 degrees.

A brief foggy cloak over an unusually sunny April

High humidity and warm temperatures marked Hong Kong’s first weeks of April, bringing back the warmth and providing photographers with numerous opportunities to catch Hong Kong’s iconic skyline partly hidden behind a grey shroud.





The Hong Kong Observatory reported that April was characterised by sunny, warm and relatively dry weather, particularly during the second half of the month. The month had more than 159 hours of sunshine, 57 hours above the average of 101.7 hours.

Downpours in May and even bigger downpours in June

Two red rainstorm warnings issued on the same morning in May angered many parents after school classes were cancelled. There were reports of flashflooding as more than 70mm of rain fell over Yuen Long, Tsuen Wan and Sai Kung, while 100mm was recorded in Sha Tin and Tai Po.

The rains continued into the second week of June with dark storm clouds hovering over the city.



Ironically however, the month of June broke heatwave records.

The Observatory recorded four consecutive days from June 24 to 27 above 35 degrees, breaking the previous record of three consecutive days from May 30 to June 1 in 1963. And with the mercury reaching a maximum of 35.5 degrees, June also recorded the second highest temperature for the month since records began in 1884.

A hot, electric July

The month of July brought with it one of the biggest and wildest lightning storms in recent Hong Kong history. During the same week, the city also saw one of the hottest July days in more than half a century.

The city was hit by 10,000 bolts of lightning during an epic 12-hour overnight thunderstorm on July 9 and 10. The Observatory recorded 5,905 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes on Saturday July 9, with most hitting Lantau Island and the New Territories.


The rolling thunder and intense flashes continued into Sunday morning with another 4,095 cloud-to-ground bolts of lightning. In total, it was the highest number of lightning strikes recorded over a 24-hour period, since 9,966 cloud-to-ground strikes were recorded in July 2005.


Twelve days later, on July 22, Hong Kong endured a ‘Great Heat’ day when the average temperature surged to 32.9 degrees. The mercury reached above 35 degrees in some districts such as Sheung Shui and Tai Po.


August blows through with Typhoon Nida

The first typhoon of the year brought a No.8 warning signal. Typhoon Nida made landfall near the Dapeng Peninsula, in Guangdong Province. Initially it was judged to be as big a threat as the Typhoon Vicente of 2012, which triggered a No.10 warning. But eventually, Nida spared Hong Kong from its full intensity.



October – Super typhoon Haima lands in Hong Kong

Typhoon Haima, named after the Chinese word for sea horse, blew in on October 21. With a No. 8 storm warning, Haima shut down Hong Kong’s roads, schools, businesses and infrastructure.



There were 200 reports of fallen trees, including two gigantic trees near the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter, which blocked six lanes of traffic on Gloucester Road. A man died after losing his footing while walking along a rocky shoreline in Tseung Kwan O.

But there were some who embraced the strong winds and rough seas. Surfers braved the typhoon swells at Big Wave Bay as Haima blew in across the city.


By the end of the month, the Hong Kong had endured its hottest October in 132 years, according to the Observatory, with the monthly mean ¬temperature reaching 26.8 degrees, some 5 degrees above the average.

November’s supermoon

It was the second ‘supermoon’ event of the year. Coming just after the Mid Autumn Festival, Hongkongers gazed upon the moon as it reached its closest possible position to earth.


Photographers worldwide sought to capture the best shot of the moon and Hong Kong did not disappoint, with relatively clear skies giving shutterbugs a clear lunar line of sight.


December – so far, so good…

As of publishing December has been relatively uneventful – but if we’ve learned anything about 2016, it’s to expect the unexpected. Have a merry Christmas!


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