From China to Japan, a bitter cold is gripping East Asia. Experts say it’s the ‘new norm’

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Hong Kong
CNN

Tens of millions of people across East Asia braved a severe cold snap on Wednesday as sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow wreaked travel havoc over the Lunar New Year holiday, with climate experts warning that such extreme weather events are becoming “the new norm”. “.

South Korea issued heavy snow warnings this week as temperatures in the capital, Seoul, dropped to minus 15 degrees (minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit) and fell to record lows in other cities, officials said.

On the popular tourist island of Jeju, severe weather has led to hundreds of flights being canceled while passenger ships have had to stay in port due to heavy seas, according to the Central Disaster Mitigation and Safety Headquarters.

“The cold air from the North Pole reached South Korea directly,” Woo Jin-kyu, a spokesman for the Korea Meteorological Administration, told CNN after traveling through Russia and China.

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Wu said that while scientists have taken a long-term view of climate change, “we can consider these extreme weather — very hot summers and very cold winters — as one of the signs of climate change.”

Across the border in Pyongyang, North Korean authorities warned of severe weather as a cold snap swept across the Korean peninsula. Temperatures in parts of North Korea are expected to drop below minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit), state media reported.

And in neighboring Japan, hundreds of domestic flights were canceled on Tuesday and Wednesday due to heavy snow and strong winds that hampered visibility. Major airlines Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways canceled a total of 229 flights.

Meanwhile, the Japan Railways Group said high-speed trains between Fukushima and Shinju stations in the north have been suspended.

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The China Meteorological Administration also predicted significant temperature drops in parts of the country and on Monday issued a blue alert for a cold snap – the lowest level in a four-tier warning system.

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Mohe, in far north China, saw temperatures on Sunday drop to minus 53 degrees Celsius (minus 63.4 degrees Fahrenheit) – the coldest on record, meteorologists said. Ice fog – a weather phenomenon that only occurs in extreme cold when water droplets remain in the air in liquid form – is also expected to be present in the city this week, local authorities said.

Tourists pose for photos in front of a thermometer that reaches 11.3 degrees Celsius (11.6 Fahrenheit), in Otaru, northern Japan's Hokkaido Prefecture on January 24, 2023.

Tourists pose for photos in front of a thermometer that reaches 11.3 degrees Celsius (11.6 Fahrenheit), in Otaru, northern Japan's Hokkaido Prefecture on January 24, 2023.

Yeh Sang-wook, a climate professor at Hanyang University in Seoul, attributed the severe cold snap on the Korean Peninsula to Arctic winds from Siberia, adding that the cold snap in South Korea this year is partly due to the melting of the Arctic ice caps. warm climate.

“There was a record melt last year and this year,” he said. “When the sea ice melts, the sea opens up, which puts more vapor in the air, which leads to more snow in the north.”

He said that as climate change worsens, the region will face very cold weather in the future.

He said, “There is no other (explanation).” “Climate change is already deepening and there is a consensus among world scientists that this type of cold phenomenon is only going to get worse in the future.”

“Extreme weather events are the new norm,” agreed Kevin Trenberth, of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), adding, “We can certainly expect extreme weather events to be worse than they have been before.”

He also noted the cycles of El Niño and La Niña climate patterns in the Pacific Ocean that affect weather around the world.

La Niña, which usually has a cooling effect on global temperatures, is one of the causes of the current cold snap.

“There is definitely a lot of natural variation that happens in the weather but … we hear about El Niño a lot and right now we are in the La Niña phase. This certainly affects the types of patterns that tend to occur. And this is a player too.”

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