ON NOV 1, North China's Tianjin began delivering its annual central heating service to its residents, two weeks ahead of the national schedule. China Daily writer Zhang Zhouxiang comments:
According to the national schedule, heating companies are required to provide central heating services to residents no later than Nov 15. For decades, residents in the northern provinces, cities, and autonomous regions had to wait until that day to get warm indoors.
However, the weather varies from year to year, and the cold days may come before that date. Especially in recent years, the temperature in Beijing and neighboring Hebei province often falls to only a few degrees centigrade in early November.
Thus people are already feeling the cold, but they have to wait another two weeks to get warm. People even jokingly say that the coldest days in Beijing and Hebei do not fall in December when temperatures often fall below 0 C, but in early November when the temperature can be 8 C.
Tianjin has set a good example by starting the heating supply early. In fact its formal heating is not only half a month ahead of schedule but also extended half a month, as instead of ending on March 15 it will continue to March 31. Other places should follow its example and provide their heating services ahead of schedule and extend the supply period if necessary. At present in Beijing, for example, the heating can be started before Nov 15 when the temperature falls below 5 C for five successive days. However, that prerequisite might be too high and a more convenient measure is to follow Tianjin's example by setting the date earlier, which can better meet people's needs.
With modern forecasting and climate modeling techniques it should be possible to modify the heating calendar according to the actual conditions, and advance and extend the heating period as necessary.