Tens of millions of people across East Asia faced a severe cold snap on Wednesday as sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow caused travel chaos over the Lunar New Year holiday, with weather experts warning that such extreme weather events had become the “new norm”.
South Korea issued heavy snow warnings this week as temperatures in the capital Seoul plunged to minus 15 degrees Celsius (minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit) and plunged to record lows in other cities, authorities said.
On the popular tourist island of Jeju, harsh weather conditions caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled, while passenger ships were forced to stay in port due to huge waves, according to the Central Security and Countermeasures Headquarters. Disasters.
“The cold air from the North Pole has reached South Korea directly,” after traveling through Russia and China, Korea Meteorological Administration spokesman Woo Jin-kyu told CNN.
See what life is like inside one of the coldest places in the world.
Woo said that while scientists took a long-term view of climate change, “we can look at this extreme weather — extremely hot weather in summer and extremely cold weather in winter — as one of the signs of climate change.”
Across the border in Pyongyang, North Korean authorities warned of extreme weather conditions as a cold snap hit the Korean peninsula. Temperatures in parts of North Korea were expected to drop below minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit), state media reported.
In neighboring Japan, hundreds of domestic flights were canceled Tuesday and Wednesday due to heavy snowfall and strong winds that hampered visibility. Major carriers Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways canceled a combined total of 229 flights.
Meanwhile, high-speed trains have been suspended between Fukushima and Shinjo north stations, Japan Railway Group said.
China’s meteorological authority also forecast large 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.
Mohe, China’s northernmost city, saw temperatures drop to minus 53 degrees Celsius (minus 63.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday, the coldest ever recorded, forecasters said. Freezing fog, a weather phenomenon that occurs only in extreme cold when water droplets in the air remain in liquid form, is also expected in the city this week, local authorities said.
Yeh Sang-wook, a climate professor at Hanyang University in Seoul, attributed the extreme cold snap on the Korean peninsula to arctic winds from Siberia, adding that more snow in South Korea this year was due to melting of Arctic ice caps due to global warming. weather.
“There has been record melting last year and this year,” he said. “When the sea ice melts, the sea opens up, sending more steam into the air, which leads to more snow in the north.”
As climate change worsens, the region will face more severe cold weather in the future, he said.
“There is no other (explanation),” he said. “In fact, climate change is deepening and there is a consensus among world scientists that this type of cold event will worsen in the future.”
Kevin Trenberth of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) agreed that “extreme weather events are the new normal,” adding that “we can certainly expect extreme weather events to be worse than before.” “.
He also noted the El Niño and La Niña weather pattern cycles in the Pacific Ocean that affect weather around the world.
La Nina, which normally has a cooling effect on global temperatures, is one reason for the current cold snap, he said.
“Certainly there is a lot of natural variability that occurs in the climate but…we often hear about the El Niño phenomenon and right now we are in the La Niña phase. And that certainly influences the types of patterns that tend to occur. And that is also a player, ”he said.