That bit of blue sky and warmer temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday serves as a reminder that spring officially begins on Thursday, March 20, just over two weeks away. With the sun expected to remain with us through the weekend, and high temperatures on Sunday possibly reaching 14 degrees, the snowless non-winter season of Beijing is clearly coming to a close.

However, warm days will still be accompanied by cold nights well into April, and in an annual rite of spring, the central heating is going off Saturday, March 15, Beijing News reported Wednesday. There is still some discussion as to whether heating could be extended for as many as five days, if average temperatures remain below 5 degrees. If heating is extended, residents will not be billed for the additional days.

The decision and the timing are important ones, with the government balancing reasons to keep it on, including health and care for the elderly, versus some very good reasons to turn it off as early as possible, namely the tons of coal saved every day the heat is off, along with subsequent savings both in heating expenditures and carbon emissions.

STORY: You Heard It Here First: Beijing Will Host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games

Despite a nasty stretch of pollution that triggered the city's first-ever orange alert, the winter was most notable for featuring only a single snowfall, which coincidentally fell on the first day of the Winter Olympics. Temperatures were sufficiently warm that outdoor skating at Houhai ended February 17. The lack of snow did not seem to be an impediment to Beijing's intention, in cooperation with nearby Zhangjiakou, to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, an effort we believe will be successful.

The countdown now begins: how many days until we go from central heating to turning on air conditioners?

Photo: Global Times

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