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    Cold Snap: China’s North Feels the Chill, South to Soon Follow Suit

    At the Tuerhong Township station in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the temperature plummeted to minus 52 degrees Celsius, its lowest since 1960.

    China’s National Meteorological Center issued the highest level of cold wave warning for the second consecutive day on Monday, forecasting a dramatic dip in temperature across the country.

    The warning accompanies alerts for fog, gales, and sandstorms, collectively disrupting the return to study and work following the Spring Festival holiday, when millions of Chinese traditionally resume their routines.

    As of Monday, authorities stated that the cold wave would primarily affect the country’s northern regions, while some areas in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have already experienced heavy snowfall and significant temperature drops.

    At the Tuerhong Township station in Fuyun County, Xinjiang, the temperature plummeted to its lowest since 1960, falling by 45 degrees Celsius to minus 52 degrees Celsius.

    In the next four days, the cold wave is predicted to advance southward, resulting in a sharp temperature drop of 8-12 degrees Celsius per day on average in central and northern China. Some areas in central China, including Hubei and Hunan, and the southwestern Guizhou province may experience a cumulative temperature drop exceeding 20 degrees Celsius.

    Zhang Fanghua, chief forecaster at the China Meteorological Administration, attributed the sharp temperature drop to two key factors: first, a cold air mass from Siberia, and second, significant temperature rises preceding the cold wave across central and eastern China, with some areas hitting historical extremes.

    “Therefore, when the cold wave strikes, it will cause a dramatic drop in temperatures, and the temperature fluctuations before and after its arrival will also be significant,” he stated.

    Meanwhile, strong winds and heavy snowfall prompted the temporary closure of highways from Gansu to Xinjiang. As of Sunday morning, 54 road sections and 71 toll stations in Gansu and Xinjiang were closed, stranding over 42,929 passengers, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Domestic media reported that the affected passengers have been accommodated in hotels, gyms, and schools.

    Starting Tuesday, the cold wave, rain, and snowfall are expected to peak in most areas of China. According to Li Xiaozhu, senior engineer at the Public Meteorological Service Center, the dramatic temperature drop, along with snow and freezing rain in some regions, will likely affect roads, railways, aviation, and water transport.

    In response, the central city of Wuhan has already announced a one-week delay in school reopenings for primary and secondary school students until Feb. 26.

    Li Rui, 37, the father of a fourth-grade primary school student, vividly recalls the freezing rains before the Spring Festival: “It was the first time I had seen such a scene of ice and snow everywhere. It was like magic,” Li said, adding that the extreme weather poses hidden dangers, especially for children. “It’s necessary to delay the start of school because once the rain freezes, it may cause trees to break, and icicles can form on the eaves of the house. If they fall, it is quite dangerous.”

    Editor: Apurva.

    (Header image: A view of the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, Hubei province, Feb. 6, 2024. VCG)