Tens of millions of people in Northeast Asia are battling the freezing cold and snowstorms that have killed five in Japan alone. The extreme winter weather, which experts also describe as a result of climate change, caused flight cancellations and traffic chaos in South Korea and Japan. Temperatures fell to record lows. In northern China on the border with Russia, the lowest temperature ever measured in the People's Republic was reported from the city of Mohe at minus 53 degrees. Mongolia and North Korea also suffered from the bitter cold. In South Korea, the weather agency on Thursday issued a warning of new heavy snowfall for the region around the capital Seoul, the western port city of Incheon and the adjacent coastal area. For days, the peninsula has been overwhelmed by a cold wave accompanied by winter storms. Dozens of people have been treated in intensive care in Seoul for health problems due to the cold, authorities said.
Due to the severe onset of winter, rail and road traffic was severely affected in parts of Japan. Many roads were icy. Thousands of people were forced to spend the night in train carriages or stations in western Japan's Kyoto and Shiga prefectures. Motorists were stranded on some main roads, local media reported on Thursday. Hundreds of flights have been cancelled. Experts also see unusual weather phenomena as a sign of climate change. "Extreme weather events are the new normal," said Kevin Trendberth of the US Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) the US broadcaster CNN. "We can certainly expect extreme weather to be worse than before." The expert Yeh Sang-wook from Hanyang University in Seoul saw a connection between the strong ice melt in the Arctic and the heavy snowfalls.
Professor Takashi Nakamura, climate expert at the University of Tokyo, reported that the "polar vortex," a very large cold-air vortex that normally exists over the Arctic region, has split. Some of it has migrated south to East Asia and is causing the current intense cold over the Japanese archipelago, Nakamura told the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper. Add to that the meandering of the westerly winds: The average winter temperature in Japan is rising at a rate of 1.19 degrees Celsius per 100 years due to global warming caused by human activities, Makamura said. Even as global warming progresses, extremely low temperatures such as now could occur at times due to fluctuations caused by natural mechanisms such as meandering westerly winds.
Watch the video: Minus 53 degrees - where the breakfast egg freezes on the scoop.
The cold and snow also affected travel for the Lunar New Year celebrations, which have been celebrated in China and South Korea since Saturday. On Tuesday, the last day of vacation, around 40,000 visitors had to wait for their return flight on South Korea's holiday island of Jeju. All nearly 500 flights to and from the island have been canceled due to extreme weather conditions. Hundreds of ferry services across the country have been temporarily stopped. Temperatures in most regions of South Korea fell to winter lows on Wednesday. It was coldest at minus 28.1 degrees in Cheorwon on the border with North Korea. In Beijing on Wednesday there was a record value for this winter with minus 16 degrees.