Beijing shivers through coldest December on record

A woman in a warm hooded coat and scarf walks in Beijing, China. Photo: December 2023
Image caption,More than 300 hours of below-freezing temperatures have already been recorded in Beijing this month

The Chinese capital, Beijing, has experienced its coldest December since records began in 1951.

Temperatures in the city have frequently fallen below -10C this month.

It has been a year of extremes in the capital: six months ago, Beijing recorded its hottest ever June day, at just over 40C.

China has been hit by several waves of extremely cold weather already this winter.

A Beijing weather observatory recently recorded more than 300 hours of below-freezing temperatures in under two weeks, according to the state-backed China Daily news agency.

The cold snap has affected provinces across China, with schools in some areas being forced to close and transport services facing difficulties.

Persistent cold weather has put energy supplies in Henan province under strain, with reports that some heating boilers have broken down.

A man clears snow at a park in Beijing, China. Photo: 22 December 2023
Image caption,The Chinese capital has also had to deal with snowfalls

Meanwhile, parts of northern Japan have seen huge snowfall – far above the usual amount for this time of year.

Heavy snow alerts have been issued for some areas over the past few days, with around a metre (39 inches) of snow falling in the Gifu and Hokkaido prefectures.

There has been an extreme swing in temperatures in South Korea in recent weeks – ranging from 16C to below -12C, according to the Korean Meteorological Administration (KMA).

It is not clear how people are coping with extreme weather in neighbouring North Korea.

One possible reason given for the cold snap is a weakening in the Polar Vortex – an expanse of cold air that normally sits around the Arctic – allowing the air to move further south than normal.

However, there is debate among scientists about what part climate change plays in this.

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