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The China Meteorological Administration Issues Summary on Cold Weather Snap

Beijing/Geneva, 5 February 2008 (WMO) – In response to the extreme cold weather pattern currently affecting China, the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) has produced the following summary regarding the widespread low temperatures, frozen rain, snow and ice.

I. Overview

Since 10 January 2008, weather patterns over China have undergone significant changes, shifting from clear, warmer and drier weather at the beginning of the winter, to the current conditions featuring widespread low-temperature, frozen rain, snow and ice. Moist air from the southwest and cold air continuously flowing from the north met over the Yellow River and the areas south of it, causing persistent low temperatures, rain, snow and freezing weather - an extremely rare event since 1949 - and seriously affecting 19 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) in the Yangtze River basin, south China and southwest China.

The persistent low temperatures, freezing rain, snow and ice are mainly a result of three successive weather episodes that occurred during 10-16, 18-22 and 25-29 January. In these weather situations, freezing rain, heavy snow leading up to snowstorm were observed in many provinces in southern parts of China. Based on the meteorological satellite monitoring of snow-cover on 28 January, there was a total snow-cover area of 1.2821 million km2 encompassing 15 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) in southern China. Of this, over 90% of land areas were snow covered in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan, Hubei and Shaanxi, while the snow-coverarea over Guizhou, Hunan and Chongqing was 40-75% of their total land areas. On 29 January, snow depth was observed to be 30-45 cm in the central Anhui, southern Jiangsu and elsewhere.

Sustained low temperature, freezing rain, snow, ice and chilly weather have led to severe disasters in southern and southwestern parts of China, with especially serious damages to transport, energy supply, power transmission, agriculture and even people's daily livelihood.

Since occurrence of the three widespread cold-weather episodes characterized by low temperature, freezing rain, snow and ice starting from 10 January, the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) and its local establishments have intensified their operational work on weather analysis, forecasting and early-warning to provide governments at all levels and sectors, like transport, electricity, civil affairs and agriculture, with decision-making oriented meteorological services. In addition, CMA has been disseminating meteorological disaster early-warning information and preventive advices for the general public in a timely manner through all mass media, e.g. television, radio, short messages via cell phones and electronic display screens, which have been fully recognized by the State Council, local governments, the concerned sectors as well as social communities. CMA has initiated the categories-III and -II emergency response plans successively to provide early-warnings on major severe meteorological disasters. It has also sent working teams to disaster-stricken areas to guide the local meteorological forecasts and services.

II. Preliminary Analysis of Causal Factors

1. Impact of La Niña event

Since August 2007, the sea surface temperature conditions in central and eastern parts of the equatorial Pacific Ocean have developed rapidly to the La Niña state. For six months in succession until January 2008, the sea surface temperature was 0.5? lower than the average. It is expected that this La Niña will most likely persist until the end of Spring 2008. The abnormal precipitation pattern that has existed over China since the winter started has a significant similarity with those that occurred after strong La Niña events as noted from records. This suggests that the current La Niña event could be one of the major contributing factors that have led to the large-scale, persistent freezing temperatures, rainy and snowy weather.

2. Unusual Features of the General Circulation

Being rare yet persistent and stable, some unusual General Circulation features over the Eurasian continent are believed to have directly contributed to the widespread low temperatures, freezing rain and snowy weather over China. These features have already persisted for 20 days since mid-January, causing such rare sequence of severe weather events in both central and eastern China.

III.A Weather Tendency Forecast

It is predicted that during early February, snow and rain intensities will tend to weaken over southern and southwestern China. From 6-8 February, there will be no weather situations with significant rain- and snow in southern China, with a tendency for temperatures to recover and snow to gradually melt.

For further 3-day forecast information on China, go to:

For more information please contact:                         

LI Mingmei, Communications and Public Affairs contact point, International Cooperation Department, China Meteorological Administration,  Tel.: +86 10 62172957, Fax.:+861062174797,  E-mail:


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For more information please contact:
Ms Carine Richard-Van Maele, Chief, Communications and Public Affairs, WMO.
Tel: +41 (0)22 730 83 15.

Mr. Paul Garwood, Press officer, Tel: +41 (0)22 730 84 17.




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