When you see the words ‘tropical’ and ‘subtropical’ in the description of a country’s climate, it conjures up images of palm trees, white sandy beaches and year-round blue skies. Taiwan offers both of these alluring climates, split between the south and north of the island. It may be only 250 miles from Keelung in the north to Kenting at its southernmost tip, but the Tropic of Cancer cuts through the middle of Taiwan, which leads to a climatic difference between the subtropical north and the tropical south.
The climatic split between north and south can mean several degrees difference to the average temperatures, but essentially the whole island of Taiwan experiences hot, humid summers between June and August, when average temperatures in Taipei range between 30-33°C. Winters are short and mild across the whole country, with typical temperatures between December and February remaining as high as 18-20°C. Only the temperate Central Mountain Range and the highlands of Alishan and Taroko National Park escape the sultry heat throughout the year due to their altitude.
The key difference in the weather between the north and south of the island is brought about by the north east monsoon (a weather system that blows in from Mongolia and Siberia) and the south east monsoon (determined by the high pressure system over the Pacific). This latter system brings typhoons to Taiwan between June and October – during the steamy summer season – which mostly affects the south west coastal stretch between Kenting and Taichung and the Central Mountain Range. The north east monsoon runs from October to March, chiefly affecting coastal Keelung and the north east coast of the island including Yilan and Hualien.
Another climatic quirk to note: the annual ‘plum rain’ season can bring rain to any part of the island during spring and early summer, though like much of Taiwan’s rainfall, it tends to come in short intense bursts, freshening the air before the blue skies return.