It fell to 1C today in Taichung, the coldest I've ever experienced here in Taichung, so cold I am wearing cheap work gloves inside my house. Up at my university in Linkou at about 200 meters of altitude, it snowed. It snowed also in Yilan and several deaths of old people in northern Taiwan were reported. Because houses are not heated or even insulated, a legacy of our construction-industrial state's premium on speed of (shoddy) construction, it wants to be as cold inside as it is outside. Concrete houses are refrigerators... yet the worse thing is the wind, that brutal north wind that makes the outside uncomfortable even when it is deceptively sunny.
Chen Chen-hsiang's old Geo-Essays on Taiwan, first published in 1982 as a collection of still older essays, observes...
With the arrival of the cool season, the variation of temperature between south and north becomes more apparent. In February, the coldest month for a large part of Taiwan, the mean monthly temperature at Hengchun is 20.5C, and at Taipei, 14.8C, showing a difference of 5.7C. On the average, for every 55 kilometers one moves northward the mean temperature of the coldest month falls by 1C.As humans heat the earth, these weather patterns have changed, and frosts have become rarer. A recent paper on frost in the Fushan forest in northeastern Taiwan at 700 meters notes:
Cold weather occurs only in the north, when that part is subject to persistent rain or when it is influenced by a cold wave flowing southward from the mainland. The extreme is -1C. Frost is occasionally seen on the ground in the northern part of the island. In the 50 years 1897-1946 Taipei had 34 frosts, Taichung 31 and Tainan only four. This possibility of frost is one of the reasons why sugar cane, banana and pineapple plantations are limited to the south and centre of the island.(p12)
The extreme cold temperature (1.3 °C) recorded in March 2005 was a rare event at Fushan and was very unusual in its timing: this freezing temperature only occurred once in March for the past 24 years from 1991 to 2014 (Lu et al. 2000; Lu, Hwang & Huang 2009). This frost event appeared to have a long-lasting effect on plant reproduction of several species at Fushan, especially to those species with new leaves or flowers during the frost. For example, many Lauraceae species that produced new leaves and flowers in early March were greatly impacted by this event. In consequence, these species did not produce seeds in the following fall. The disastrous loss of flowers and seeds not only reduced recruitment in these plant populations but also initiated trophic cascades (Inouye 2000). For instance, Formosan rock macaques (Macaca cyclopis) that rely heavily on fruits as their main diet suffered from extremely high mortality in 2005 and low birth rates in 2006 at Fushan (Su, Teng & Lai 2010).Cold is not good if plants and animals are not adapted to it.
ADDED: Snowing in the Taipei Basin in the afternoon today... and snow in Dakeng right above my house.
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