Go to contents

Lowest temperatures in 30 years

Posted December. 28, 2010 01:35,   


The 2004 disaster film “The Day After Tomorrow” raised public awareness of the severity of global warming. At the hypothetical apocalyptic situation in the movie, the world enters an ice age due to rapid global warming melting polar ice, cooling sea water and changes in the course of sea currents. The U.S.-Mexican border area is crowded with Americans trying to escape the cold. Washington ends up begging Mexico City to accept Americans as immigrants.

A cold wave has swept through Korea. The temperature in Seoul plunged to minus 16 degrees Celsius over Christmas weekend, the lowest since minus 16.2 degrees on Dec. 29, 1980. This winter, the Northern Hemisphere has suffered record-low temperatures and heavy snow since November in a situation similar to the film. Britain had 25 centimeters of snow, the worst in 17 years, and saw the temperature fall to minus 18 degrees, the lowest for November. China also suffered temperatures of minus 10 to 45 degrees and heavy snow. Though the mercury in Korea will begin to go back up Monday afternoon, two or three more cold waves are forecast next month. Since the country began meteorological observation, the lowest recorded temperature was minus 32.6 degrees in Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi Province, on Jan. 5, 1981.

The Korea Meteorological Administration blames this year’s cold spell to weaker Arctic oscillation caused by higher temperatures in the North Pole. The Arctic oscillation is a pattern in which atmospheric pressure at polar and middle latitudes fluctuates between negative and positive phases. Such phenomena has weakened due to global warming, so cold air in the North Pole has been pushed by warm air to middle latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. An official at the weather agency said, “We cannot jump to the conclusion that the latest cold wave resulted from climate change. Over the long term, however, it can be seen as a phenomenon of climate change.”

Korea has suffered many weather anomalies this year. On Jan. 4, the central region had 25.8 centimeters of snow, the most since 1937. In spring, the number of rainy days hit 34.7, the highest since 1973, and that of sunshine hours was just 77 percent the usual level. Summer also saw record hot weather. In fall, 259.9 millimeters of torrential rain paralyzed the center of Seoul on Sept. 21. The annual average temperature on the Korean Peninsula has risen 1.5 degrees over the last 100 years, and certain experts predict a rise of another 4 degrees. Are climate changes bringing about a catastrophe?

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-taek (maypole@donga.com)