Located in the remote northwest China, Xinjiang is known for its vast and diverse topography which has given rise to its varied climate. Generally, the weather in Xinjiang is characterized by a continental climate with distinct seasons, low rainfall, strong winds, large temperature differences between day and night, and abundant sunshine. The average annual precipitation in Xinjiang is about 150 mm, but it varies greatly in different regions.
The region also features hot summers and cold winters, with a noticeable temperature range throughout the year. January is the coldest month in Xinjiang, with the average temperature dropping below minus 15-20°C. The hottest days in Xinjiang are usually in July when the temperature in some areas can reach up to 27-32°C.
In this article, we will introduce some detailed weather information in Xinjiang, including the weather in different regions, rainfall, and weather in different seasons.
Xinjiang Geography and Climate
Ranging from towering snow peaks to the expansive deserts and lush basins, Xinjiang’s diverse topography and landscape significantly influences its climate and weather. The region features a topography of two basins (Junggar Basin, and Tarim Basin) lying between three parallel mountain ranges (Tianshan, Kunlun, and Altai ranges) which block a substantial amount of moist air from the Pacific Ocean. This topography results in Xinjiang’s arid and desert-like climate, featuring limited rainfall, high evaporation rates and big temperature variations. The annual precipitation of Xinjiang is only about 150 mm.
The climate is also influenced by the large elevation difference in Xinjiang. Generally, the higher mountain areas experience a colder weather, while the lower desert and basin areas are usually warmer. The Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin is a typical example of such climate, earning the name “sea of death” due to its extreme dryness and scorching heat. In Turpan Basin, the hottest place in China, the highest temperature in summer can reach 49°C.
The geographical location is another crucial factor influencing Xinjiang’s climate and weather. It is located far from the ocean and in the mid-latitudes, where the prevailing winds blow from the west to the east and bring cold and dry air from Central Asia. This results in its harsh winters and hot summers. In January, the coldest month in Xinjiang, the average temperature can drop below -15°C – -20°C. While in July, the average temperature in Xinjiang can reach 25°C.
Best time to Visit Xinjiang
Given the diverse climate and landscapes in Xinjiang, visitors can expect different beauty and charms in different seasons. Generally, if you want to enjoy a Xinjiang adventure weather-wisely, the best time is from June to October when the weather is comfortable in most areas, the flowers are in full blossom, the grasslands are vibrant and lush, and many fruits ripen.
Different regions and attractions usually have their own optimal times for exploration. For example, lavender fields in Ili is at the most beautiful in mid-June; Nalati Grassland, Bayanbulak Grassland, and Sayram Lake are best to be visited in July and August; the best time to visit poplar forest in southern Xinjiang is from September to early October when the poplar leavens turn into golden color; Kanas and Hemu Village are also known for their stunning autumn scenery in late September and early October.
Weather in Different Regions of Xinjiang
With the Tianshan Mountain Range stretching across the middle of Xinjiang, this vast land is thus divided into two parts: northern Xinjiang and southern Xinjiang.
Southern Xinjiang is surrounded by mountains on all sides and located at a lower latitude, hence receives more solar radiation and is less influenced by the monsoons. This results in its higher temperatures than northern Xinjiang, and less precipitation throughout the year. Most areas in southern Xinjiang has a desert climate and sees hot summers and mild winters.
Compared to southern Xinjiang, northern Xinjiang belongs to the continental climate, featuring cold winters and warm summers. It is located at a higher latitude, thus experiences lower temperatures and less evaporation. Additionally, the open western terrain in northern Xinjiang allows this area receiving the influx of moist air currents from the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, resulting in its increased rainfall and relatively more humid climate.
Examples of weather disparities between southern Xinjiang and northern Xinjiang:
- The weather and climate difference are evident in many aspects, for example, in northern Xinjiang, the annual precipitation is about 300 mm, while it is only 100 mm in southern Xinjiang.
- In January, the average temperature in Urumqi in northern Xinjiang ranges from -16°C to -8°C, while it is from -11°C to -1°C in Kashgar in southern Xinjiang.
- In July, the average temperature reaches 29°C to 42°C in Turpan in southern Xinjiang, while in Ili, people experience a much cooler temperature which ranges from 19°C to 29°C.
Rainfall in Xinjiang
As we mentioned above, Xinjiang is far from the ocean, and most of its land is surrounded by mountain ranges, leaving this place one of the driest regions in China. Averagely, its annual precipitation ranges from 50mm (2 inches) to 400mm (16 inches), varying significantly in different regions and years.
Slopes of Tianshan Mountain in northern Xinjiang usually receive more rainfalls and are more humid. Turpan Basin in southern Xinjiang is the driest area in Xinjiang. Below is a table of average annual precipitation in different regions in Xinjiang:
|Average annual precipitation (mm)
|Irtysh River Basin
|Economic belt on the northern slope of the Tianshan Mountains
|Ili River Basin
|Tarim River Basin
Weather in Xinjiang During Different Seasons
Spring (March – May)
In Xinjiang, spring is short but beautiful. Though it gets warmer than the harsh winter days, March and April still experience chilly weather, especially in , with the average temperature ranges from 5°C to 15°C. The weather gets warmer and more pleasant when it comes to May, with blooming flowers liven up the scenery.
If you visit Xinjiang in spring, be prepared for the strong winds blowing across the region which may cause sandstorms and dust storms in some areas.
Summer (June – August)
Xinjiang is generally hot and dry in summer, with its average temperatures ranging from 25°C to 40°C. In northern Xinjiang, such as Urumqi, Ili, and Kanas, the weather is usually cooler and wetter at this time, making it the best period to marvel at the natural beauty of alpine lake and lush grasslands. Top recommended places to visit in Xinjiang in summer include Heavenly Lake, Kanas Nature Reserve, Sayram Lake, Bayanbulak Grassland, and Nalati Grassland. Additionally, summer is also the great time to savor many sweet and fresh fruits in Xinjiang.
Considering the intense heat and strong sunlight in summer, it is essential to prepare proper sun protection items such as sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, scarves, etc. if you are planning to visit Xinjiang during this time.
Autumn (September – November)
Autumn is the best time to visit Xinjiang when the region offers stunning scenery and mild weather, with average temperature ranging from 10°C to 25°C. It is also the time when the region sees most clear sunny days. No matter you want to explore historical and cultural sites in southern Xinjiang, or marvel at the stunning natural beauty in northern Xinjiang, the pleasant autumn weather will surely enhance your experiences.
Besides the pleasant weather, autumn is also the time when many areas in Xinjiang being dominated by the golden and red autumn colors. The most recommended places to visit in autumn include Kanas Lake, Hemu Village, Narati Grassland, and lavender fields in Ili Valley.
Winter (December – February)
Xinjiang undergoes a long and extremely cold winter when the temperatures may drop below freezing. Sporadic snowfall and strong wind are not uncommon in this time of year. In northern Xinjiang, the temperatures are especially harsh, with Urumqi, for instance, experiencing an average temperature below -15°C (5°F) in January. The southern part is relatively warmer, with the average temperature hovering around 0°C.
Visiting Xinjiang during winter will reward you with many thrilling winter sports, such as skiing, ice skating, snow sculpture, and winter fishing.