Last update: September 18th, 2019 at 6:00 pm
As a massive snowstorm in late January 2016 set snow-total records in several localities in the eastern United States, another widespread and record-setting storm advanced over eastern Asia. From January 17 – 24 temperatures plummeted from Bangkok, Thailand to Russia as snow blanketed the region.
Weather Underground blogger Bob Henson reported that the January chill stemmed from the polar vortex – an upper-level circulation pattern that rings the Arctic. The vortex extended southward, allowing the development of a strong Siberian high. This cold, dense, low-level air mass then spread southward across the continent.
Temperatures in Bangkok, Thailand dipped to 16°C (61°F), which may not sound impressive until one realizes that lows there typically stay above 20 -25°C (68-77°F). Taipei, Taiwan hit a 44-year record low temperature of 4°C (39°F). Further north, an all-time low was set in Eergu’Na, Inner Mongolia where temperatures sunk to a truly bitter -47°C (-53°F).
The cold temperatures claimed many lives, including at least 85 people in Taiwan and 14 in Thailand. Livestock also suffered, with losses as far south as Laos. Mongolia’s snow and extreme weather extends beyond this particular cold snap – they have been suffering a dzud (extreme cold along with heavy snow) since November of 2015. According to Reliefweb, almost 1 million people are likely to be affected along with their livestock in Mongolia this winter.
The broad blanket of snow also brought difficulties across the region, especially with travel. Thousands of flights in Japan and South Korea were cancelled due to heavy snow. Jeju Island, just south of mainland South Korea, received more snow than has been measured there since 1984, according to news reports. Accumulation of 12 cm (4.7 in) of snow closed the island’s airport for a few days and stranded about 86,000 travelers.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image of the post-storm scene on January 25. Snow stretches from eastern Russia on the northernmost coast, through northern China, part of North Korea and southwestern South Korea. Jeju Island is obscured underneath the cloud cover.