Beijing recently encountered its coldest December since records began in 1951, as a cold wave swept across much of China. Sub-zero temperatures, heavy snowfall, and blizzard conditions characterized the weather, particularly in the northern and north-eastern regions. The frigid air, originating from the Arctic, pushed temperatures in some areas to a bone-chilling -40°C.
The Beijing weather observatory recorded an unprecedented period of over 300 hours with temperatures consistently below freezing, marking the lengthiest such occurrence for December in the past 72 years.
This severe cold snap led to the closure of numerous schools and businesses in the Chinese capital due to travel disruptions and increased heating demands. While temperatures have slightly risen with the start of the new year, Beijing continues to experience cold conditions, with maximum temperatures barely surpassing freezing.
Simultaneously, Scandinavia faced extremely low temperatures this week, with some areas plummeting to -40°C. The Kvikkjokk-Arrenjarka weather station in northern Sweden recorded -43.6°C during the early hours of Wednesday, marking the coldest January temperature in Sweden since the record of -49°C set in 1999.
Snowstorms disrupted travel in parts of Scandinavia, particularly in southern Sweden, where about 1,000 vehicles’ occupants had to be rescued after getting stranded due to heavy snowfall.
As the new year began, the first cyclone of 2024, Tropical Storm Alvaro, made landfall on the west coast of southern Madagascar. Initially forming off the Mozambique coast in late December, Alvaro intensified to a Severe Tropical Storm as it moved across the Mozambique Channel.
Although it initially brought gusts of around 85mph to the western part of Madagascar, Alvaro weakened as it traversed the island’s mountainous east.
Widespread heavy rain, exceeding 100mm in some areas, led to significant flooding in southern Madagascar. The storm resulted in the destruction of eight houses and six schools, along with damage to power lines and communication infrastructure.
After crossing Madagascar, Alvaro briefly regained strength to a Moderate Tropical Storm in the Indian Ocean. However, the injection of dry air disrupted the cyclone’s structure, causing it to weaken again, with the remnants dissipating in the southern Indian Ocean.