January 2016 East Asia cold wave

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January 2016 East Asia cold wave
Land surface temperature anomaly over East Asia in January 2016.jpg
Variation from average land surface temperatures between 17–24 January 2016
Formed18 January 2016 (2016-01-18)
Dissipated24 January 2016 (2016-01-24)
Lowest temperature−46.8 °C (−52.2 °F) in Inner Mongolia, Irkutsk Oblast and Zabaykalsky Krai, −19 °C (−2 °F) in Pyongyang (lowest urban temperature)
Maximum snowfall
or ice accretion
142 cm (56 in) in Kitahiroshima, Japan
CasualtiesAt least 109 deaths
Areas affectedEast Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia

In late January 2016, a cold wave struck much of East Asia, parts of mainland Southeast Asia and parts of northern South Asia, bringing record cold temperatures and snowfall to many regions. Sleet was reported in Okinawa for the first time on record, and many other regions saw their coldest temperatures in decades. Snowfall and frigid weather stranded thousands of people across four countries. At least 85 people in Taiwan died from hypothermia and cardiac arrest following a sudden drop in temperature during the weekend of January 22–24. The cold claimed a further fourteen lives in Thailand, and snowstorms resulted in six deaths across Japan. This event was driven by a fast Arctic warming that occurred within the troposphere, forcing the Arctic Oscillation to change phase rapidly from positive (in late December) to negative (in late January), facilitating the atmospheric blocking and associated Siberian high buildup.[1]

Hong Kong[edit]

On 24 January, the temperature at the Hong Kong Observatory fell to 3.1 °C (37.6 °F),[2] the coldest in 59 years.[3] Hundreds of people hiked up Tai Mo Shan for sightseeing, where temperatures fell to a record low of −6.0 °C (21.2 °F). Many were also on Tai Mo Shan participating in a 100 km marathon.[4] 129 required rescue and 67 were hospitalised for signs of hypothermia.[5][6] The Fire Services Department (FSD) deployed 53 fire appliances, 39 ambulances and more than 300 personnel.[7] The Government Flying Service evacuated eight patients by helicopter from Tai Mo Shan and Sunset Peak to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital and the airport.[7] The FSD also responded to 130 calls at Kowloon Peak.[8] In addition, the Civil Aid Service and Hong Kong Police Force were mobilised.[7]

Classes were cancelled for more than 510,000 students of kindergartens, primary schools, and the English Schools Foundation on 25 January.[9] The closure was suggested by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union and it is believed to have been the first time the Education Bureau has ever cancelled classes due to cold weather.[10] In the face of some criticism the government noted that most schools do not have heat.[11] The vice chairman of the Aided Primary School Heads' Association stated that the decision was justified as slippery roads could endanger school buses, which in Hong Kong are not fitted with winter tyres.[10]


Snowstorms across Japan killed six people and injured 100 others.[12] More than 600 flights were disrupted across the nation. Okinawa observed sleet for the first time since reliable records began.[3] Amami Ōshima saw snow for the first time in 115 years. Record snowfall blanketed portions of the mainland, with Nagasaki observing 17 cm (6.7 in).[5] On Honshu, the main island of Japan, 142 cm (56 in) of snow was recorded at Kitahiroshima, Hiroshima and 59 cm (23 in) at Suzu, Ishikawa.[13] Temperatures in Tokyo fell to −2.6 °C (27.3 °F), the lowest recorded since 1984.[14] Temperatures fell to record lows across much of western Japan.[13] And Kamikawa in Hokkaido record -32℃. Mt. Fuji recorded -31℃. Nagano recorded -25℃.

Mainland China[edit]

Snow and sleet were reported in parts of Guangzhou, the first time these had been observed since 1967 and 1956 respectively.[12][15] Snow also fell on Shenzhen, a rare occurrence for the region.[3] At least four people died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a heating system in Guangzhou.[12] Farther north, the minimum temperature in Shanghai fell to −7.2 °C (19.0 °F), lowest since 1990,[citation needed] with light snow falling on the morning of 23 January.[citation needed] Twenty-four weather stations observed all-time record lows. Temperatures across Inner Mongolia fell to a record low of −46.8 °C (−52.2 °F).[15][where?]

Korean Peninsula[edit]

Snow and cold weather forced the cancellation of 1,200 flights on Jejudo, off the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula, stranding approximately 90,300 passengers.[5] Ulleungdo was blanketed with 137.3 cm (54.1 in) of snow.[16] Temperatures in Seoul fell to −18 °C (0 °F),[12] the lowest in 15 years.[5] Many all-time low temperature records were broken in cities across the south of the country, especially on Jejudo, where Seogwipo and Seongsan recorded the lowest temperatures on record, at −6.4 °C (20.5 °F) and −6.2 °C (20.8 °F), respectively.[citation needed] In North Korea, temperatures fell to −19 °C (−2 °F) in Pyongyang and to −37.5 °C (−35.5 °F) in Samjiyŏn County. 40,000 construction workers were reportedly withdrawn from construction sites.[17]


Snowfall levels in Taiwan, January 2016
A 500-meter snowfall line on Datun Mountain in Yangmingshan, Taipei
Snowfalls in Yangmingshan, Taipei
Snowfalls in Yangmingshan, Taipei
Snowfalls at Xiang-Yang, Taitung County in January 2016 East Asia cold wave

A surge of cold air during the weekend of January 22–24 brought temperatures as low as 4 °C (39 °F) to Taipei, the lowest temperatures in 44 years, A mixture of Rain and snow mixed was observed in Taipei City at 16:00 on 24 January.[3] Yangmingshan, the Matsu Islands, and Kinmen all observed their coldest temperatures on record at −3.7 °C (25.3 °F), 0.3 °C (32.5 °F), and 1.3 °C (34.3 °F), respectively.[18] Due to the subtropical climate,[19] many homes do not have central heating or insulation, and residents struggled to cope with the temperatures. Overall, at least 85 people died from hypothermia and cardiac arrest in Taiwan, including 66 people in Taipei and Taoyuan, and another 16 in Kaohsiung. The majority of victims died in their homes.[3] The Ministry of Health subsequently claimed only three people died and 45 were admitted to hospital emergency wards.[20] In Su'ao, Yilan measured 5 °C (41 °F), Touwu, Taoyuan measured 4.2 °C (39.6 °F), and Hsinchu City measured 2.8 °C (37.0 °F).[citation needed] Snow accumulated to 16.2 cm (6.38 in) on Jade Mountain.[12]

The cold weather caused severe damage to crops, with losses exceeding NT$20 million (US$600,000) in Miaoli County alone. President Ma Ying-jeou declared the crop damage a national concern.[18]

Rest of Southeast Asia[edit]

Temperatures in Bangkok, Thailand fell to 15 °C (59 °F),[3] and down to 13 °C (55 °F) in Chai Nat Province.[21] 14 people across Thailand died, many of whom were reportedly suffering from chronic or respiratory diseases.[22]

In Hanoi, Vietnam, the lowest temperature in the downtown recorded was 5 °C (41 °F), the coldest temperature measured in the city in over 20 years. There was even snowfall in the mountainous areas of Ba Vì of the capital on January 24th, 2016. Some other places recorded the first snowfall in the history[3] Snow fell across the mountains of Lào Cai Province in Northern Vietnam.[15]

In Laos, temperatures in Houaphanh Province dropped to 0 °C (32 °F) and some upland areas experienced frost, causing the death of several buffaloes in Xam Neua District.[23]

In the Batanes islands of the Philippines, temperatures dropped below 10 °C, a record low for the Philippines at sea level. In the mountainous city of Baguio, where tourists typically flock because of the cooler weather, temperatures dropped to 9 °C (48 °F), the city´s coldest recorded temperature in 2016.

In Cambodia, temperatures in some parts of the country dropped to 19 °C (66 °F).[citation needed]

In Myanmar, the lowest temperature recorded was −5 °C (23 °F) in Putao. In Yangon, temperatures fell to 14 °C (57 °F).[citation needed]

In Malaysia, temperatures in some parts of the country dropped to between 21 °C (70 °F) and 16 °C (61 °F). The lowest temperature recorded was 14 °C (57 °F) in Keningau, Sabah. In Kundasang, temperatures fell to 10 °C (50 °F).[citation needed]

South Asia[edit]

In northern India, temperatures dropped to −16.6 °C (2.1 °F) in some areas,[where?][example needed] and below 5 °C (41 °F) in New Delhi. Fog resulting from the low temperatures led to delays at Indira Gandhi International Airport and forced cancellations of train services in New Delhi.[24]

In Nepal, 700 schools were shut in Rautahat and Parsa owing to thick fog and the cold, and the number of patients suffering from cold-related diseases increased in medical facilities throughout the country.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wang, S.-Y. S., Y.-H. Lin, M.-Y. Lee, J.-H. Yoon, J. D. D. Meyer, and P. J. Rasch (2017), Accelerated increase in the Arctic tropospheric warming events surpassing stratospheric warming events during winter, Geophys. Res. Lett., 44, doi:10.1002/2017GL073012.
  2. ^ The Weather of January 2016
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "East Asia cold snap 'kills 85 in Taiwan'". BBC. 25 January 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  4. ^ Leung, Christy (25 January 2016). "Hong Kong frost chasers ridiculed: hospitalisations, arguments with police, 300 firemen and 8 helicopter flights to rescue them". South China Morning Post.
  5. ^ a b c d Ap, Tiffany (25 January 2016). "Deaths, travel disruption as bitter cold grips Asia". CNN. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  6. ^ Lau, Kenneth; Ng, Yupina; Benitez, Mary Ann (26 January 2016). "The cold hard facts". The Standard.
  7. ^ a b c "Inter-departmental rescue operation conducted at Tai Mo Shan". Hong Kong Government Press Release. Information Services Department. 25 January 2016.
  8. ^ Grundy, Tom (24 January 2016). "In Pictures: Fire Dept. urges 'frost tourists' to stay home after 85 rescued from HK's highest peak". Hong Kong Free Press.
  9. ^ Au-yeung, Allen; Lai, Ying-kit (25 January 2016). "Nowhere else to go: Hong Kong working parents take children to school despite cold weather suspension". South China Morning Post.
  10. ^ a b Lau, Kenneth (25 January 2016). "Big freeze shuts schools". The Standard.
  11. ^ Cheng, Albert (28 January 2016). "Hong Kong's embarrassingly poor response to cold snap must not be repeated". South China Morning Post.
  12. ^ a b c d e Withnall, Adam (25 January 2016). "Asia cold snap: Scores dead as freezing 'polar vortex' sweeps across eastern Asia". The Independent. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Heavy snow clobbers central, western Japan". The Japan Times. Jiji Press, Kyodo News. 24 January 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  14. ^ "Toshin demo Reika Ni-ten-roku-do Kiroku, Zenkokuteki ni Kontō Ichiban no Hiekomi" 都心でも零下2.6度記録, 全国的に今冬一番の冷え込み [2.6 degrees below zero even in central Tokyo. The coldest it's been nationwide this winter]. Asahi Shimbun (in Japanese). 25 January 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  15. ^ a b c Holmes, Oliver (25 January 2016). "Deaths in Japan and Taiwan as record cold snap hits east Asia". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  16. ^ "Residents of Ulleungdo Island, True Snow Troopers". The Korea Bizwire. Pohang. 27 January 2016. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  17. ^ Kim, Kim So; Chou, Choong Il (25 January 2016). "Cold wave hits Korea, strands tourists on Jeju". Korea JoongAng Daily.
  18. ^ a b "Cold decimates crops, fish farms". The China Post. Taipei, Taiwan. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  19. ^ "The World Factbook: Taiwan". CIA. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  20. ^ Chang, S.C. (26 January 2016). "Only 3 died from low temperatures over weekend: Health Ministry". Focus Taiwan. Central News Agency. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  21. ^ "Two die as cold bites in Central region". Bangkok Post. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  22. ^ "Cold wave causes 14 deaths". Bangkok Post. 27 January 2016. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  23. ^ "Northern Lao provinces hit by extreme cold snap". Vientiane Times. Vientiane. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  24. ^ "Temperatures plummet as Asia gripped by big chill". Channel NewsAsia. Mediacorp. 25 January 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  25. ^ "700 schools shut in Rautahat, Parsa due to cold". The Himalayan Times. Rautahat. 27 January 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2016.