Weather forecaster warns of disappearing spring and fall

People wearing down coats cross the street in Gwangwhamun in central Seoul, Oct. 17, as unseasonably cold weather has gripped the country. Korea Times file

By Yoon Ja-young

Many Koreans cite "four distinct seasons" as uniquely characterizing the country, but this historical climactic character may change soon. With many people startled by the early cold wave currently gripping the nation, a weather forecaster has said that spring and fall may virtually disappear from Korea's four seasons.

Ban Ki-song, the director at Kweather, a private weather service provider, said in an interview with CBS Radio, Oct. 18, that his agency predicts the winter to be colder than usual this year.

He said that Korea's winter tends to be especially cold when La Nina has formed, and added that La Nina has continued recently. He also cited melting Arctic ice and the fact that the Arctic Oscillation Index is hovering below zero as indicators that this winter will be colder than usual.

Ban said that the recent sudden temperature drop is related to climate change, which is producing extreme changes in temperatures. The daily high temperature of Gangneung and Daegu, for instance, stood at above 30 degrees Celsius until early this month, which was a record high, and the temperature continued hovering around 25 degrees Celsius until the middle of the month. Such summery weather in fall suddenly turned into a frosty winter, with the morning low in Seoul coming to only 1.3 degrees Celsius on Oct. 17, the lowest for mid-October in 64 years.

If this trend continues, "the spring and fall will be very brief, and the four seasons of Korea will turn into the two seasons of summer and winter," Ban estimated.

The sudden drop in temperature seems to have made many people catch colds, as they were suddenly exposed to freezing air while still wearing short sleeves.

According to convenience store operator CU, the sales of cold medicine at its stores rose 67.5 percent during the weekend when the cold wave alerts were issued. It noted that cold medicine ran out of stock in some stores, where nearby pharmacies were closed during the weekend. Sales of herbal drinks that Koreans typically take with cold medicine also surged 25.2 percent last week.

Yoon Ja-young

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