By Park Si-soo
The ongoing winter has shattered many records in Korea's modern meteorological history and more records are expected to be rewritten before it is over.
Record high snowfall in central parts of the country early this month already broke a 73-year-old record. In Seoul on Wednesday, the mercury dropped to minus 15.3 degrees Celsius, challenging the lowest temperature in the capital city of -16.7 degrees, set on Jan. 22, 2004.
Southern parts of the peninsula are also struggling with "unprecedented" blizzards.
According to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), Younggwang, a rural country in South Jeolla Province, was bombarded with 20.5 centimeters of snow, while other towns in the vicinity saw snowfall ranging from three to 10 centimeters.
"It's rare to see such heavy snow in southern parts of the country," a KMA official said.
The KMA said the entire peninsula will experience cold temperatures until Saturday, but added that it will be slightly warmer next week. It cited an overly expanded continental high pressure front over Russia as the major culprit for the unusual weather.
But it seems that Korea is not an isolated victim by the unexpected inclement weather. As reported, parts of China, Europe and the United States have also been hit by their largest snowfall ever, causing massive flight cancelations and road traffic problems.
Many domestic and international weather experts blame the unexpected cold spell sweeping the northern hemisphere on global warming, or the El Nino phenomenon. Some specialists recently brought up the possibility that it is a sign of what they call the beginning of a "Mini-Ice Age."
One of the advocates of this surprising theory is Prof. Mojib Latif, one of the world's leading climate modelers. According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper in the United Kingdom, Latif said the world could be in for a spell of cooler temperatures, rather than hotter conditions, as a result of cyclical changes in ocean currents for the next 20 or 30 years.
The weather expert also questioned the widely held view that global temperatures will rise rapidly over the coming years. But the professor underlined the effect will be "temporary."
Another news outlet, Mail Online, reported the weather was the start of a worldwide trend toward colder weather, which it alleged challenges global warming theories.
It also said the predictions are based on an analysis of natural cycles in water temperatures in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
The KMA said, "It's still too early to judge to see the ongoing weather conditions are the beginning of a new Ice Age."