18 August 2019
Umbrellas will serve more than one purpose during the winter in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP
Umbrellas will serve more than one purpose during the winter in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

Don’t underestimate the El Nino effects in Hong Kong

Should you carry an umbrella during the winter?

No, I’m not talking about the yellow item that has become a potent symbol of the civil disobedience movement, but rather the regular personal utility that shields us from rain.

One may think that an umbrella would be an unnecessary appendage in the new season, but my advice would be: shed the preconceived notions, as the winter this year could be a lot different from the previous one.

The Hong Kong Observatory has indicated that we will have a wet and warm Christmas, with climate change a harsh new reality.

Blame it on the El Nino effect, tipped to be the strongest in the past 16 years by international climate experts. No wonder our local weather station people expect a rainy winter with high temperatures until February. And there might not be any typhoon before June.

The El Nino effect was detected after higher-than-average sea temperature was recorded for six consecutive months by the local observatory since May.

Another proof of El Nino came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which reported that the sea temperature in the west coast of United States was two degrees higher in October, one degree higher in Hawaii, and half a degree higher in Japan and Indonesia.

Locally, there were nine winters with El Nino effect since 1972 that had higher than average temperature of 15.5 degrees Celsius, according to data from the Hong Kong Observatory.

The economic loss of El Nino cannot be underestimated. During 1997 and 1998, El Nino was blamed for causing natural disasters that killed over 20,000 around the world and brought a total loss of US$34 billion, second only to the blow caused by the Asian financial crisis.

Now, coming to this year, the El Nino could perhaps be blamed by market observers for keeping equities in check. The market failed to get a boost from the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect launch this week even as global bourses were doing well.

But the warm temperature should be good news for the Occupy protesters who wish to remain camped out in the streets.

However, many others won’t be pleased. Among those will be ladies who had stocked up on fur, leather jackets and leg warmers.

Also, flower market tenants won’t be too happy, especially given the fact that we’ll have a late Lunar New Year and the peach flowers would probably bloom earlier than expected.

Ditto for investors who bet on Bosideng, the mainland down-apparel maker which relies on cold weather for a sales boost. With temperatures expected to be relatively higher, Hong Kong punters will see their appetite for winter-clothing firms diminish.

Don’t be fooled by cool mornings because it would get rather sunny and warm in the afternoons.

If the situation persists, we could see Santa Claus wandering around in shorts. Also, fewer people wearing cotton-padded jackets during the Chinese New Year.

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EJ Insight writer

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