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After US December blizzards and early January Freezes, Europe Descended into Deep Freeze, Coldest in China since 1971

By Joe D'Aleo
Monday, January 18, 2010

After US December blizzards and early January Freezes, Europe Descended into Deep Freeze, Coldest in China since 1971.


Early January was very cold in the Plains and southeast with lows in the minus 30s in the plains and below freezing in Florida well south. It even dropped to the upper 30s (4C) in Cuba!! Last February (2009), temperatures dropped in westernmost Pinar del Rio province to 4.9 degrees Celsius. Meteorologists say this is a record low for the month of February. The coldest temperature register in that region ever was of 3.9 degrees Celsius on January 28, 1986.


For the second year in a row, a deep freeze and heavy snow hit England hard. Here are some photos from normally mild Great Britain.

Britain’s big freeze deepened the last two weeks and temperatures in some areas were plummeted towards minus 20C (minus 4F).

The relentless cold weather has brought more havoc with dozens of big companies having their gas rationed after domestic demand soared to record levels and warnings that many grit stocks were reaching crisis point. Icy conditions have again left roads in a treacherous state across virtually the whole country and caused problems for rail and air passengers.

On the 6th, hundreds of drivers were last night trapped in a 10-mile stretch as snow brought one of Britain’s busiest motorways grinding to a halt. Up to 1,000 vehicles were feared to have been snared in the gridlock - some stuck for up to 15 hours - as the area was buried under 12in of snow. Efforts to bring in snow ploughs to clear the chaos were hampered as some drivers abandoned their vehicles on the A3(M) and walked.

Burning Books to Keep Warm

The elderly were reportedly snapping up hardbacks as cheap fuel for their fires and stoves. Temperatures this week are forecast to plummet as low as -13C in the Scottish Highlands, with the mercury falling to -6C in London, -5C in Birmingham and -7C in Manchester as one of the coldest winters in years continues to bite.

Workers at one charity shop in Swansea, in south Wales, described how the most vulnerable shoppers were seeking out thick books such as encyclopedias for a few pence because they were cheaper than coal. One assistant said:

Book burning seems terribly wrong but we have to get rid of unsold stock for pennies and some of the pensioners say the books make ideal slow-burning fuel for fires and stoves. A lot of them buy up large hardback volumes so they can stick them in the fire to last all night. A 500g book can sell for as little as 5 pence, while a 20kg bag of coal costs 5 pounds sterling.

In eastern Asia, a similar story. China Daily reported:

Falling mercury causes power shortages; cold spell to continue

Three days in a row, Beijing set record daily lows. It was as cold as -2F. It was the coldest day since 1971.


The heaviest snowfall to hit northern China in nearly six decades continued to snarl traffic yesterday, stranding thousands of passengers on railways and at airports. The unusually harsh winter weather also caused coal shortages, forcing some provinces to cut power supplies. Though snow stopped in most parts in the north by yesterday morning, heavy snowfall and biting cold continued in parts of Inner Mongolia, Hebei and Shandong.

The heavy snow led to the delay of 13 passenger trains in Inner Mongolia, and forced the closure of all four airports in Shandong, as well as 30 state highways in northern China. Beijing Capital International Airport, with more than 1,400 flights scheduled to take off yesterday, reported severe disruptions. By 4 pm, 485 flights took off, 690 flights were delayed for an average of 90 minutes, and 98 flights were canceled, an airport spokesman said.

A train from Harbin to Baotou ran into snow more than 2 m high near Jining in Inner Mongolia on Sunday and passengers were evacuated only yesterday. All 15 carriages were buried in snow and more than 1,400 passengers were stranded in the train without lighting and heating. Food and drinking water were also in shortage, the local railway bureau said. “The snow was so high because this area is at a lower elevation. It piled up quickly, and huge gales continued to blow more snow in,” Zhang Jianwen, an armed police officer from Ulanqab League who led the rescue work, told China Daily.

“Though snow stopped yesterday, the temperature was -28 C, freezing the doors,” he said. Armed police managed to pry open one door, and with the help of the local railway bureau, evacuated the 1,400 passengers to a nearby railway station yesterday. Nearly 2,000 people, including armed police, railway workers and farmers, worked to remove snow from the rail track with shovels, he sad. “For a whole day, we only ate a steamed bun each after waking up at 4 am,” Zhang said.

As the train blocked the line, two more passenger trains were affected, too. “Some 2,000 passengers were stranded on the two trains, but we delivered food to them,” he said. By 6 pm, snow was finally cleared away from the railway, and trains could pass through at a slow speed, a spokesman for the Hohhot railway bureau surnamed Han said.

With people turning up the heat indoors to fight the extreme cold across the country, many provinces are reducing electricity supply due to the shortage of coal. Since December, power has been cut or reduced to more than 2,000 factories in Wuhan, Hubei province, to ensure supply for household use, while most parts of the south face electricity shortages, Han Xiaoping, an energy analyst, said yesterday.

The connection between the cold in the US and Western Europe ties in with major blocking in the Arctic and North Atlantic.

Also they are about a wavelength apart in a four wave pattern. Eastern China and the dateline are the other two axes for the troughs when a four wave pattern like this occurs. That explains the cold in eastern China where Siberian air is dipping south.

The major blocking in the arctic and subarctic sectors has left the AO at the lowest daily values for December since records started in 1950 with two dips to near -5.7 STD.

This builds arctic high pressure and forces polar easterlies further south.

UK Mirror compiled a list of some of the most memorable UK WINTERS


1684 - This is widely regarded as the coldest winter in British history because average temperatures stayed below zero for two months. The River Thames froze for more than two months, thanks to a January 6C colder than the long-term average for the month. Although there have been lower temperatures recorded for short spells, in 1684 the average temperature in January was -3C and in February was -1C.


1739-40 - In late December temperatures dropped to -9C and felt even colder because of biting winds. The following January was one of the coldest months on record.


1962-63 - The third coldest winter. December began with the last great London smog, then gales, before the snow arrived over Christmas. Snow covered most of the country for 67 consecutive days. On January 13, -16C was recorded at Gatwick, -20.6C in Hertfordshire, and the sea froze off the south coast.


1940 - January averaged -1.4C. Mid-month, the Thames froze for the first time since 1880. In places snow was so thick that the ice brought down tree branches and phone wires.


1881 - More than 2ft of snow paralyzed Britain when gale force blizzards battered the whole country. Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, recorded a temperature of -21.7C on Christmas Day.

1927-28 - Saw one of the heaviest snowfalls of the 20th century. Blizzards began on Christmas Day in the Midlands and Wales, and then spread south by Boxing Day. In Kent, there was 2ft of level snow, and drifts of 20ft were measured in the Chilterns.


1947 - January saw the start of one of the longest periods of lying snows in British history. Snow fell somewhere in the country every day from January 22 to March 17. Nearly a quarter of the nation's sheep died. At Writtle, Essex, on January 29, a temperature of -21C was recorded, and most of East Anglia experienced nothing warmer than -5C. Oxford had 16 consecutive days of frost, and Kew had no sunshine for 20 days from January 2.