Last week saw the arrival in Taiwan of the seasonal spring rains known as the plum rains. The phenomenon is a yearly occurrence and is named for coinciding with the ripening of the fruit. Taiwan, especially the southern part of the country, depends on these rains to replenish depleted reservoirs after typically dry winters with little accumulated precipitation. The plum rains together with rainfall from typhoons provide the country with the bulk of its freshwater for irrigation, home use, and industrial needs.
The rains are caused by moist Pacific air colliding with cool, dry continental air masses originating in Russia and China. The frontal depressions created oscillate north and south depending on the strength of the cool and warm air masses. In Taiwan, the fronts bring rains during May and June for a few days up to two months. More northern countries receive the rain later in the summer until the fronts break up.
The drenching rains provide benefits but also some negatives. They bring life-giving water to parched areas of Taiwan and are a welcome respite from the spring heat. Air conditioners that were in constant use a week before can take a break, and people can go outdoors without a baking sun on them. Air pollution is also much improved during the rains. However, they can also cause annoyance as well as danger. In Taiwan, scooters are a popular mode of transport for students and workers alike. Driving in the rain can be dangerous with reduced visibility and traction. Rainsuits can also become moldy with constant use. Some years, the plum rains can be torrential and cause flooding, mudslides, and crop damage. Also, with increased rainfall comes an increase in mosquito populations. The biting insects can be pesky but some also carry the potentially deadly dengue fever. In sum, the rains are a necessity but can bring challenges as well.
Students at CIA are very lucky in that for most of them, a commute is a five-minute walk across the campus. They simply carry an umbrella and they are fine. However, outdoor activities such as tennis, cycling, and golf are affected. During breaks in the rain, students can go for walks or ride a bike, but grassy areas may be saturated with water. All in all, the rains are welcomed by everyone as long as they aren’t too heavy and don’t last too long.