Go to contents

[Op-Ed] Korea’s Cold Wave

Posted January. 08, 2010 08:00,   


The Korea Meteorological Administration’s weather forecast was 91.9 percent accurate last year, but has tarnished its reputation after failing to release accurate snowfall predictions around Christmas and the New Year. For example, it forecast heavy snow for Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Gangwon Province Dec. 29. Yet the three regions saw just sleet that day. The weather agency also predicted snowfall of 10 centimeters in Seoul Monday, but 26 centimeters ended up falling. Given its failure to release accurate weather forecasts, the agency was flooded with criticism. Many question why the weather body keeps giving inaccurate snow forecasts despite having a supercomputer worth tens of millions of dollars.

The heavy snowfall has been followed by a cold wave. The temperature in Seoul fell as low as minus 13.6 degrees Celsius yesterday, the lowest in 47 months. Yet Korea was not alone in suffering a cold spell. At the end of last year, global leaders participated in the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to discuss solutions to global warming and climate change. Though a month has passed since the end of the conference, the U.S., Europe and China have suffered heavy snowfall and a cold wave. In India, around 100 people have died from the cold. Against this backdrop, some warn of a new ice age as opposed to global warming.

Global warming is a legitimate world threat, however. Scientists say global warming does not mean that world temperatures increase evenly. Instead, global warming could result in fluctuation of temperatures and abnormal climate change. The Hollywood movie “The Day After Tomorrow” describes the influence of global warming on the world. In the movie, higher temperatures melt Antarctic and Arctic glaciers and reduce sea water temperature, in addition to changing sea currents. This causes a severe cold wave in the U.S. The Korean weather agency says the northern hemisphere has had exceptionally heavy snowfall and cold this winter since the cold spell has moved southward due to a hole in the jet stream circulating around the North Pole. The temperature of the North Pole is minus 20 degrees Celsius, or 10 degrees higher than average.

Critics say the Korean weather body blames global warming whenever it releases an inaccurate forecast. To improve its weather predictions, renowned meteorologist Ken Crawford was hired to head the agency with a salary higher than that of the president. Crawford yesterday announced 10 measures to provide more accurate forecasts including enhancement of radar management. Yet weather forecasts issued by humans despite advanced technology inevitably faces limitations. To correctly forecast the weather, a super computer should analyze data and calculate equations more than a million times. It is impossible for modern science to predict how fast and in what direction cigarette smoke will move five seconds later. So is predicting the constantly changing weather any easier?

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)