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Temperature of Tibet in Different Seasons

Tibet enjoys a continental climate, with very hot summer and extremely cold winter. But the temperature of Tibet in different seasons is not only decided by the season as the altitude of Tibet varies greatly from a minimum altitude of around 3600m to 5000m at some passes. The wind at Everest Base Camp can be very cold. At altitudes higher than Lhasa the nighttime temperatures will invariably be below zero centigrade. Besides, there is also a great difference of temperature between day and night in Tibet. For example, in Lhasa although the temperatures are mostly moderate during the day it can be very cold at night, requiring several layers or much better, a light down jacket to walk around. Therefore, you might have an extreme range of climates and you should be prepared for all sorts of conditions on clothing.

Even in Summer, it is advisable to take down jackets with you. With a huge range in elevations, you will experience all sorts of temperatures and quite possibly all sorts of weather. It might be sunny or snowy. Sometimes you will encounter the hail. Though it doesn't rain often in Tibet and usually it doesn't rain hard, normally only light drizzle, but it is not fine all the time. It can be extremely windy and cold on top of the high passes. So travelling in good vehicles that have heaters is the best choice even in Summer. In winter of Tibet, although it is mostly fine and sunny the day time temperatures rarely make it above zero centigrade. In Lhasa, a short shirt might be enough for you in the middle of the day, but in the morning and evening are extremely cold.

Generally speaking, from April to October, the temperature of Tibet is relatively high. This is might be biggest reason that most tourists travel to Tibet during this period. But no matter when you make a trip to Tibet, warm clothes are helpful and necessary if you plan to visit places out of Lhasa.

Distinct Temperature of Tibet

Set on the high altitude plateau in the middle of the Asian continent, Tibet is one of the most unique regions in the world. With the average altitude reaching more than 4,000 meters, and surrounded by huge mountain masses, temperatures in Tibet change drastically from season to season, area to area, and even day to night. In summer, the air is warm, and there is little need for heavy clothing even in some of the highest and most remote locations. The air at this height is thin, which allows more of the sun’s UV rays to penetrate to the ground level, making the sun feel hotter and stronger than at sea level areas of the same temperatures.

Sunlight in Tibet The sun in Tibet is hotter and stronger due to thin air at high altitude

With this sun factor taken into account, the sunlight on your face can feel nice and warm, even in the depths of winter. In the highest altitudes of the region, temperatures are not as dominated by the sun factor as in lower regions, and the icy cold of winter wraps its chill fingers around everything it touches. And when the wind picks up, the wind chill factor makes it even colder. And this same wind chill factor can make even the sunniest day in summer feel a little chilly.

The winds on the Tibetan Plateau blow in for the most part from either the northwest or the southeast. Carried by the monsoon climate, the cold winds of the northwest monsoon bring with them the icy cold of Siberia, and make the winter long, cold, and dry. Blowing across the mighty Himalayas, the southeast monsoon is what brings the rainy season in Tibet, but even that does not bring the hot weather or much rain with it. The immense height of this mountain range cools down the winds from Southeast Asia, taking most of the rain with it as the gusts cross the higher slopes of the mountains. It is these mountains that keep the region of Tibet dry for majority of the year, with only around 460mm of rainfall a year, on average.

Overall, the seasonal variations in temperature is minimal, ranging from 30 degrees in the summer to 10 degrees in the winter in some areas. And while altitude and the wind has the most considerable effect on the temperatures, a big difference in temperatures occurs between night and day. While it can be around 22 degrees during the day, it can often drop to below freezing at night, making it a very big drop in temperatures. The reason behind this is the altitude and air density. At these higher altitudes the air is thinner, and with the clear skies that cover Tibet for most of the year, the thinner atmosphere allows the heat that has accumulated during the day to dissipate out of the atmosphere once the sun has gone.

Temperature of Lhasa from Spring to Winter

The Lhasa region has a fairly plain topography, and this small basin is a huge attraction to tourists from all over the world. The spring season starts in April, and the region is beautiful as the weather starts to warm up and the sun shines brightly. It can be windy too, which can affect the temperatures and the rainy season climate of summer makes it warmer and more humid. Spring temperatures range from 16 degrees in April to around 20 degrees in may, and it is rare to see the temperatures drop below freezing until November, and the start of winter.

Potala palace Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet

In the height of summer, the temperatures can reach as high as 23 degrees, and after the rains are gone and autumn comes, 17-18 degrees is a good average. Winter can be very cold though, and temperatures drop considerably, with the coldest month being January, with average temperatures of 7 degrees, but falling to as low as -9 at night. Lhasa is really an all-year location, and the milder winters allow for great tourist opportunities, while not requiring more than a good warm jacket and hat during the day. And the sights of Potala palace and the surrounding monasteries and temples are an amazing sight in at any time of year.

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Temperature of Shigatse from Spring to Winter

The seasons are not distinct in Shigatse and this is mainly due to the lesser amount of plants. The seasons can be broadly classified into two main divisions. Spring is relatively short and a bit cold, with temperatures only reaching around 14 degrees. In the plains regions like Shigatse City as well as Gyantse, spring blooms and makes every moment enjoyable. The warm summers lure in the tourists, and sun block is necessary, as the temperatures rise to around 23 degrees. By autumn, the temperatures start to fall again, in comparison with spring, and by the middle of winter can reach around 8 degrees during the day and -12 at night.

Tashilhunpo MonasteryTashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet

Being further west, closer to the Himalayan Mountains, and higher in altitude, Shigatse has a much colder average temperature than Lhasa. Winter clothing is needed from October onwards, and even in the summer, days can get chilly if you are out in the countryside and unprotected from the Himalayan winds. There are a few great places to see in the city of Shigatse, including the Tashilhunpo Monastery.

Temperature of Nyingchi from Spring to Winter

Nyingchi is known for being the warmest of all the prefectures in Tibet, and it shows with the spring blazing in and bringing on the spectacular peach blossoms as early as March, with temperatures getting up to 14 degrees already. The run to summer see the temperatures continuously rising until July and August, where it regularly reaches 24-25 degrees. However, Nyingchi sees more rainfall than the rest of Tibet, which makes the summer very humid, although rain is still not that much of a bother.

NyingchiNyingchi is filled with peach blossoms in Spring

Autumn is quite warm in comparison too, and as winter rolls around temperatures rarely get below 10 degrees during the day. Nights can also be below freezing, but are the warmest of anywhere on the plateau. A wonderful place to travel, summers allow you to wander around in t-shirts most of the time, unless it is raining. However, a good sweater is needed at night, as it does get a little chilly. Spring is the best time of all to visit, as it is the time when the famous Nyingchi peach trees fill the whole area with blossoms, and the greatest peach blossom festival of the region brings the place to life.

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Temperature of Ngari from Spring to Winter

Way out in western Tibet, Ngari has an average elevation of around 4,500 meters, and the weather is adverse with very high temperature differentials between night and day. Spring does not come to the region until may, when temperatures start to climb and can reach as much as 13 degrees. July is the hottest month of summer, and the temperature goes up to around 21 degrees, as the land comes alive with the small amount of rain and the wildlife becomes active. As autumn comes in the temperature has already dropped dramatically, and highs of just 9 degrees are normal.

Mt. KailashMt. Kailash in Ngari, Tibet

However, winter is the harshest of all here, with temperatures below freezing even in the daytime, and nights getting down to around -20 degrees. Whether day or night, the spring and autumn seasons require warmer clothing as it is still very cold, and the biting winds make it feel colder. However, it is still worth a visit as the area is the locations of the world’s holiest Mountain, Mt. Kailash.

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Temperature of Shannan from Spring to Winter

Shannan has a similar climate to that of Lhasa, although it does have its own unique weather patterns. The area experiences fairly moderate temperatures over the course of the year, and the spring can be rainy as well. Temperatures in spring vary at around 6-7 degrees, while summer only gets up to around 18 degrees, although it has been recorded to have reached an all-time high of 29 degrees in the past. The southern areas of Shannan are higher up into the mountains than the northern areas, and heavy snowfall occurs in winter, with low temperatures reaching around -10 degrees at night.

Yamdrok LakeYamdrok Lake in the west of Shannan

The slight differences in temperatures from north to south means that heavy winter clothing is not that necessary, even in winter. Lighter summer clothing can be used if you are traveling around, but you are guaranteed that this lovely prefecture will never leave you bored. In the fall, the summer winds weaken, and small cyclones can be seen around the plains, and it is a great place for cycling and photography, with the stunning Yamdrok Lake at its western end.

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Temperature of Nagqu from Spring to Winter

A region in Tibet’s northern region with a very low population, Nagqu’s climate is tremendously harsh. Sub-arctic climate is experienced here and travelers can feel breathlessness, as the oxygen level is insufficient. The dry climate and windy weather discourages tourists and the temperature differences are large. No period of the year experiences a frost-free weather and annual rainfall barely reaches more than 200mm total. While the rest of Tibet has distinct seasons, in Nagqu it is harder to tell where spring begins from winter, as it is overall dry and cold almost all year round. The hottest time of the year is in July, when temperatures can reach as much as 14 degrees, and the bulk of the year’s rain falls. By the end of October the temperatures have dropped to around 3 degrees, and minus 15 is normal at night.

lake NamLake Namsto with turquoise waters

Winter here is the harshest of all Tibet, and the temperature drops to below freezing during the daytime. Snow is common throughout the winter, and severe snowstorms can often be seen. Spring does not arrive in Nagqu until late April, when the snow starts to melt, and the famous lake Nam thaws out, leaving beautiful turquoise waters behind. From the amazing lakes to the massive expanse of grasslands, Nagqu can be a great place for nature lovers and photographers, but it cannot be visited for more than half of the year.

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Master Catherine Jigme

About the Author - Master Catherine Jigme

With exceptional passion and outstanding leadership, Mrs. Catherine has dedicated herself to Tibet inbound tourism and China tour for 15 years. As one of the handful females who see great potential of Chinese inbound tourism, Catherine has made great contribution to promoting Tibet tourism and enhancing the employment of Tibetans and prosperity of local Tibetan community.

Over the years, she travelled overseas with Tibet Tourism Bureau many times to promote Tibet tourism. Currently, Catherine works as the marketing director of Tibet Vista, an opinion leader behind the whole team of Tibet Vista.

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