For football enthusiast Wang Zheng, this winter has been a warm blessing.
"In the past winters we often had to play football on the snow-covered ground, or virtually stopped practicing when the freezing air bit too hard," said Wang, a State-owned enterprise employee in Beijing.
"Thank goodness there were merely two very small snows this year, and we played at least twice a week since the air was extraordinarily warm."
Beijing's average temperature of this winter is 2 C higher than the average of the past years, ranking it in the top three of the warmest winters since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949.
The records across the country are indicating that China is experiencing its 18th warm winter in a row.
Meteorologist statistics show most parts of the country have had a higher temperature than the same period in past years, some 1-3 C higher in northwest China, north China, the Yangtze and Yellow River areas, and Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
In some cities in Inner Mongolia and the Heilongjiang Province, average temperatures this winter are 3 degrees higher than in past years.
Only southern Fujian, eastern Guangdong and the northern part of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have been relatively colder this winter.
If compared with the average temperatures of the winters from 1961 to 1990, 4.9 C, this year's record of 3.5 degrees indicates the 18th consecutive warm winter, Zhang Qiang, an official with the National Climate Center, said.
However, if compared with a new standard which includes the averages between 1971 to 2000, this winter is the eighth warm winter in a row, he explained.
In Beijing, meteorologists have described this winter, usually counted from December to February, as exceptionally warm and a bit short of precipitation.
The average temperature of last December was 1.8 C higher than over past years.
Although there were days in January when the temperatures were .5 degrees lower than the same period of past years, the average still went 1.3 degrees higher.
The mercury soared in February, with the temperatures from February 21 to 27 equaling the averages of mid-March in past years. And the ice in lakes and rivers in the city melted three days earlier.
Meteorologists said the warmer climate is likely a result of global warming.
The warm winter reduced power consumption for heating and is nice for the transportation and construction sectors, experts said.
But on the other hand, the higher temperatures dry up the earth and give pests a chances to survive the coldness, posing a threat for a breakout of vermin and epidemics.
For amateurish football players, however, the trouble was that continuing dry weather left the grassless pitch extremely vulnerable to the least stir - players found that a small match or a gust of air would make the field a whirlwind of dust and dirt, said Wang.
(China Daily March 1, 2004)