With temperatures having recently plummeted across most of China, meteorologist Sally Webb explains exactly what’s going on, and outlines some of the crippling consequences for those affected.
Temperatures across much of Asia are below average at the moment, but especially so in China. Generally, temperatures are about 5°C below average, but over higher ground they’re dropping to roughly 15°C below what’s expected for this time of year. Bar the south-east coast, most regions have experienced maximum temperatures in the minus numbers and Bayanbulak, a site on top of the Tianshan mountains, had a maximum temperature of a devastatingly low -31.4°C. Even in more populated areas temperatures have struggled to rise over 5°C during the day, and have dropped well below freezing overnight.
Off China’s east coast, the Laizhou Bay froze when sea surface temperatures descended below 1°C and local media has reported that over 1,000 ships are trapped in the ice. In addition to this, one hundred commercial flights have been cancelled in the last month due to the excessive snowfall and ice, many of them in the central Hunan province.
Overall, the average temperature in China since the 20th of November has been 3.8°C. The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) has stated that the north of China is experiencing it’s coldest winter for 42 years, with one region reaching -15.3°C for the first time in 43 years.
The cause of these low temperatures is a high pressure system. High pressure causes the air to become more stable and so warmer air is not mixed as well, resulting in temperatures dropping away. As well as this, there has been snowfall over some Asian mountain ranges which has failed to melt. The high pressure moved in at the end of November and has lingered throughout December and now into January.
Conditions are predicted to improve over the next couple of weeks in northern China, however in the south it’s set to remain extremely cold with snow expected in many areas.