I take the stairs in leaping bounds, ambitiously striding upwards two concrete blocks at a time. After the fifth spread-eagling leap, I’m feeling knackered as the lactic acid is already pumping through my legs, choking them. My heart is pumping, blood thundering in my ears, and my breath bursts forth stochastically. But I soldier on. Two others follow me, and it would be intolerable to allow them to see me pause for even a moments rest.
I glance up the mountain again. Beads of sweat refract the sunlight into my dilated pupils, exposed after having nestled in the recessed shelter under the brim of my blue Danish Emergency Management Agency hat. A droplet twinkles as it jingles on a stiff strand of brow hair. The hydrostatic tension binds it to my right eyebrow, before it begins gracefully plummeting…downwards…into my gaping eye.
Pain. Brief blindness. Severe blinking. And then it’s over – the stinging salt of the sweat diluted by the relative freshness of the tear it brought forth.
This was my last Sunday, a day much like any other in the past 3 months, and one (yet again) necessitating the issuance of the “Very Hot Weather Warning”, by the Hong Kong Observatory – our local meteorological watchdog.
“Such days are becoming increasingly frequent here in the former British colony turned “Special Administrative Region”, and even denim-clad local is beginning to take notice.”
My forebears (i.e. the “Rents”) are Brits, and as such I have had occasion to journey back to the Motherland, that far-off, yet well known little (series of) island(s) sometimes referred to as “Blighty”. And blighted they are – incessant rains, sleet, fog, mist, etc. Any type of drab weather, and the United Kingdom is plagued by it! Accordingly, a typical characteristic of any true Brit is upon meeting another, to instantly bemoan the awfulness of the weather on that day. These interchanges inevitably beginning with exclamations of “Oh dear! The weather today is truly dreadful. It’s just so [hot/wet/cold/dry]!” [insert the Queen’s voice]
Having escaped that particular monotonous litany of dull weather-bound conversation in Britain, as of two years ago, I now find myself entering into similar dialogues here…in a former British colony…
Apparently, there is no escaping your heritage!
This particular hot day, Sunday 19th July, marked the 8th event this year which exceeded the balmy 33°C, putting us three scorching days ahead of last year’s incidences, and presenting pretty clear evidence that our native newspapers’ headlines may not be quite as hyperbolic as some like to believe.
The most widely read English language paper, the South China Morning Post, cooed earlier in the year as “Hong Kong enjoy[ed] unseasonably warm, dry weather in April”…unfortunately, this soon gave way to “More Hong Kong hill fires reported after hottest Ching Ming festival on record”. And as time has marched on “Up to seven typhoons and a hot 2015” has been heralded, and subsequently substantiated by “Hong Kong’s record heat likely to stay on the boil after hottest June in a century”. And it’s true. We are currently experiencing the hottest conditions in Hong Kong that we have ever had to contend with…at least since records began in 1884.
Plagiarising the Hong Kong Observatory verbatim, this month “the monthly mean temperature of 29.7°C was 1.8°C above the normal figure of 27.9°C and broke the previous record of 29.0°C set in 2014 by a wide margin of 0.7°C.”
“Compounding such temperatures, which admittedly pale in comparison with the heatwave in India in May, which killed over 2,500 as night temperatures exceeded 37°C (blood-boiling conditions) and as roads melted under the 48°C days, is the high humidity.”
According to the (hopefully) reliable “AccuWeather.com“, the last time I checked, under conditions of 31°C and 73% humidity, the “Real Feel” was more akin to 44°C…At the time, I certainly thought that assessment was accurate, as yet more sweat droplets beaded, dripped, and flowed in rivulets down the lightly creased, and bearded contours of my face…again pooling in the arches of brow en route!
There is a near endless stream of information and opinion (and sweat) I could espouse on the rising temperatures we are facing just here in our urbanised domain, but I’ll reign myself in here…and leave more thoughts for another day!
Sam Inglis MSc
Associate in Hong Kong
Odyssey Books & Maps