Record Lows And Deadly Snows Sweep Japan; Iceland’s Coldest December For 50 Years; + Cold Arctic Skies Produce Rare ‘Polar Stratospheric Clouds’

Record Cold And Deadly Snow Sweep Japan

Asia’s cold spell is intensifying, particularly in the east where records are continuing to fall across the likes of China, the Koreas and Japan.

Frost and/or snow has touched all regions of Japan, and historical benchmarks are tumbling.

This morning (Jan 25), Kousa –for example– logged a low of -9C (15.8F), which is the locale’s lowest temperature ever recorded in books dating back to 1979.

Additional records were also toppled Wednesday morning, some of which are compiled below (data courtesy of the JMA):

Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA)

Accompanying Wednesday’s record cold has been heavy and deadly accumulating snow, which has snarled traffic, disrupted train travel, forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights, and left at least three people dead.

The city of Fukui, on the western coast of Japan, Jan 24 [AFPPIX].

The snow was particularly heavy up the coast along the Sea of Japan, with the city of Maniwa, for example, in Okayama Prefecture, hit with a record 93 cm (3+ feet) in just 24 hours (to 8:00 AM Wednesday morning).

On a section of highway stretching 10 km (6 miles) in central Japan, hundreds of vehicles were stuck in the snow. While in Fukui Prefecture, cars and trucks were brought to a halt on a 14-km-stretch of a national road overnight Tuesday.

The big freeze is hitting Japan’s trains, too: At stations in the western city of Kyoto, some 3,000 people have been stranded after drifting snow forced the suspension of services, with some passengers forced to sleep at Kyoto’s main station.

“We only got one thermal sheet each from staff, I couldn’t sleep because it was so cold,” said Masahiro Nishikawa, who spent the night on the floor of Kyoto Station.

The country’s high-speed train services have also been disrupted.

Japan’s bitter freeze is forecast to persist through the remainder of the week, with the JMA calling for continued vigilance against blizzards, rough seas and icy roads.

These conditions are rivaling the all-time record-busting snowfall that accumulated in December:

Iceland’s Coldest Dec For 50 Years

December delivered record cold across Iceland, but particularly to the capital Reykjavík which suffered its coldest month in more than a century.

The national average for Dec 2022 came out at -4C (24.8F) — Iceland’s coldest December since 1973 (solar minimum of cycle 20).

Reykjavík posted an average of -3.9C (25F) which is a whopping 4.7C below the multidecadal norm and meant the capital city endured its coldest December in 126 years, matching the Dec of 1916 (The Centennial Minimum), according to Met Office data.

On only three prior occasions has Reykjavík been colder: in 1878, 1886 and 1880.

Elsewhere, Akureyri logged its coldest December since 1973; Hveravellir it’s coldest ever (in books extending back to 1965).

Freezing Europe

Finger-snapping lows and disruptive snows are also impacting the UK and mainland Europe–with the UK continuing to pay people to switch off their power as the National Grid struggles to cope with the heating demand.

Snow is falling and ice is forming from Scandinavia to southern Spain, from Wales to the Ukraine as complacent Europeans struggle to cope with plunging temperatures after what has been a mild first few weeks of winter (ignoring mid-Dec’s record cold–technically still autumn).

Freezing nights have also been felt as far south as North Africa, across the highlands but locally at low elevations, too.

In Algeria, some record-challenging Tmins include the -7.3C (18.9F) at Batna and the 1C (33.8F) at Annaba (on the coast); while in Tunisia, -5.6C (21.9F) hit the city of Kasserine, with coastal locales, such as Tabarka, Bizerte and Gabes, posting lows of -0.2C (31.6F), 0.6C (33.1F) and 0.1C (32.2F), respectively, with an exceptional -3.1C (26.4F) observed at Enfidha.

Looking ahead, more of the same is on the cards for the remainder of the month, with some longer-range models hinting at the possibility of Europe and North Africa –as well as North America– could be on the brink of another powerful Arctic Outbreak.

Cold Arctic Skies Produces Rare ‘Polar Stratospheric Clouds’ (PSCs)

A rare outbreak of polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) is underway.

The below image was shot by Richard Jenkinson on Tuesday, Jan 24 in Nellim, northern Finland:

PSCs seen above Finland on Tuesday [Richard Jenkinson].

Polar stratospheric clouds are rare, explains Dr Tony Phillips of

They form when the temperature in the Arctic stratosphere drops to a staggeringly-low -85C (121F). Then, and only then, can widely-spaced water molecules begin to coalesce into tiny ice crystals. High-altitude sunlight shining through the crystals then creates intense iridescent colors often likened to auroras.

NASA models of the polar stratosphere show that temperatures have dropped into the very low range required for Type II PSCs:

Looking ahead, the forecast (yellow line) is calling for something of a ‘warm-up’ as January draws to a close, warming that could be tied to the development of a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) event (though the data far from conclusive at this point).

SSW’s increases the likelihood of fierce polar air escaping the Arctic and plunging south into the lower latitudes — a scenario we’re seeing anyway in Asia –and are about to see in the North America (see below)– despite the absence of any SSW.

GFS 2m Temperature Anomalies (C) Jan 28 – Feb 6 [].

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