Severe Cold in Southern Asia
Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory
The bitter cold of winter settled ferociously over the interior of Asia during the first week of 2006. A large mass of Siberian air swept as far south as India and as far east as Japan, enveloping much of Asia with uncommonly low temperatures. In many places, the cold weather was accompanied by crippling snow. Among the most severely affected were the 200,000-plus people stranded in northwestern China when heavy snow fell over the region, reported United Press International. The cold snap also levied a heavy toll on northern India, where an estimated 200 had died of the cold as of January 9, said the BBC. The effect of the cold air on the land can be seen in these land surface temperature images, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite between January 1 and January 8. Unlike the air temperatures given in weather reports, which tell how cold the air near the Earth is, land surface temperature measurements record how cold the ground is. In these images, land temperatures are represented with color, deep blue being the coldest temperatures and yellow being the warmest. In January 2006 (the image that appears when you first open this page), large sections of China were significantly colder than they were in 2005 (the image that appears when you place your mouse over the image). The Taklimakan Desert formed a warm pink and purple oval surrounded by the cold blue of the Kunlun Shan and Tian Shan mountain ranges in the 2005 image. One year later, the desert is the dark blue of intense cold. To the north of the desert, where most of the people affected by snow in China live, the warmer purple tones that marbled the region in 2005 are gone, replaced with colder blue tones. In both images, areas that were cloudy throughout the eight-day period are gray.