Many areas in China face heavy snowfall and rapidly dropping temperatures which began in early November. In addition to falling a month earlier than usual, the snow is heavier and is predicted to last three weeks longer than in past years. Breaking local records, the snow reached a depth of 53 centimeters in Inner Mongolia, a region located in Northeastern People’s Republic of China (ABC News).
There are many contributing factors to the current conditions in China, one of which is the unstable polar winds from the North Pole that, in the past, moved in a circular direction, but are now moving in an abnormal oval direction, or spinning up and down at times. This has been caused by climate change, and has resulted in unstable polar winds and a wavy or distorted polar vortex where jet streams are weak as cold air moves south and warm air moves north uncontrollably. This phenomenon influenced the rapid change in weather in many areas of China.
In late December, cold air masses from China are predicted to reach Thailand, which may cause temperatures to drop from normal by 0.5-1 degree Celsius in all areas. Simultaneously, Northern and Northeastern Thailand will experience the most significant decrease in temperatures, which could result in the formation of frost. Experts predict cold temperatures in Thailand will persist two weeks longer than expected (TNN Online).
False news headlines induced both excitement and turmoil between members of the Thai public, as evidently seen on social media platforms. Nevertheless, there are factors involved other than the cold which would determine the possibility of snowfall in Thailand, a historically debated topic which has begun to respark.
The geological location (longitude and latitude), terrain and elevation of a country are the primary factors influencing snowfall. In general, the farther an area is from the equator, the higher the chances are of snowfall, as higher-latitude regions receive less light and energy from the Sun than tropical areas (NASA Earth Observatory). Only in areas above the latitudes of 23 degrees south and 23 degrees north can the appropriate temperature and conditions for snow prevail. Thailand, however, is geographically located directly above the equator between latitudes 20 and 5 degrees north (Thairath Online).
Due to the process of adiabatic heating, areas with higher elevations are always colder than less elevated areas. Only if Thailand were to be extruded to over 3,000-5,000 metres above sea level could snowfall become a possibility (Thairath Online). However, the tallest point in Thailand, in Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, proves to be a mere 2,585 metres above sea level.
Additionally, for snowfall to occur, the temperature must be below the freezing point and the air must be humid. Although winters in the mountains in Northern Thailand are cold, where temperatures occasionally near or fall below the freezing point, the air is always dry as mountains in the north of Thailand are not situated near oceans or large bodies of water. On the other hand, in areas where humidity is prevalent, temperatures are always contradictorily hot.
Despite misleading headlines arousing hope of possible snowfall amongst Thai social media users as a result of the extreme weather in China, scientific and geological reasoning proves to be firm in its stance. Unless the issue of climate change worsens, and the polar vortex becomes completely disheveled by chance, the odds of snow in Thailand are slim to none. For now, though, it is certain that Thais will enjoy a short break from the heat in the month of December.
ABC News. “Record Snow Falls in Parts of North-East China.” ABC News, ABC News, 12 Nov. 2021, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-11-12/record-snow-falls-in-parts-of-north-east-china/100614870.
NASA Earth Observatory. “Cold and Snow.” NASA, NASA, earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/8349/cold-and-snow.
Thairath Online. “จับตาเตือนภัย ‘หิมะตกไทยได้จริงหรือ?” | 25-01-59 | ไทยรัฐนิวส์โชว์ | Thairathtv.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 Jan. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw_3rSors_I.
TNN Online. “‘ไทย‘มีลุ้นหิมะตก? ลมขั้วโลกไม่เสถียร‘จีน‘หนาวนาน | TNN ข่าวค่ำ | 11 พ.ย. 64.” YouTube, YouTube, 11 Nov. 2021, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYY_rMstNrE.