By Jesse Brooks
Just over a week ago, chilling news rapidly spread throughout Ulaanbaatar: the incoming winter season promised to be the coldest in the last hundred years. First published by Montsame News Agency, the recent article claimed, “German meteorologist Dominik Jung said the 2016-2017 winter season promises to be ‘unusually cold’ ever recorded in last 100 years [sic]. The Mongolian Research Institute for Hydrology and Meteorology agrees with the European scholar and warns Mongolia is also expecting such a winter.”
With the past weekend’s cold spell, immediate acceptance of this prediction did not require too much of a stretch of one’s imagination. Particularly after the recent frigid weekend, a similarly unforgiving winter felt almost imminent. But the coldest winter of the century?
While news outlets believe so, key experts suggest otherwise. Dominik Jung’s aforementioned quote, for instance, comes from a report that the scholar published in October, in which Jung only warned about Europe’s record temperatures. As a follow-up, Accuweather meteorologist Joe Bastardi substantiated Jung’s claims.
“It will be very cold,” Bastardi explains, “based on the fact that this coming winter will be marked by the arrival of Arctic air masses coming down over most of Europe.”
Neither Bastardi, nor Jung, make any mention of the Asian winter, let alone Mongolia. Furthermore, on November 11, two days after several larger Asian publications picked up on the story, Jung, amusingly took to Twitter to laugh off the misinterpreted information—sarcastically tweeting that the news article was “good to know”.
When asked about his chilling prediction, Jung told The UB Post that, in fact, “No! I never spoke to anybody in Mongolia.”
In addition, the Mongolian Research Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology also emphasized that they cannot predict that this winter will be the worst of the century. P.Gomboo, the institute’s Director of Climate Change, supposes that the journalists “mixed it up”.
“We never called this the coldest winter, and we cannot say conclusively that this will be the coldest winter in a 100 years.” P.Gomboo smiles and adds, “But our outlook is definitely cold, and with unusually heavy snowfall.”
While P.Gomboo debunked the “winter of the century” warning, he wants to stress that beach season is also not on the horizon. Without making any long-term forecasts, the institute estimates that November and December will have unusually low temperatures — dipping as low as -45 degrees Celsius in the coming weeks.
Mongolians have already experienced a difficult year due to the dramatic shifts in climate. In June, a dry spell wiped out nearly fifty percent of the country’s crops. Moreover, past years have seen an increasing rate of dzuds — a winter disaster that kills millions of livestock nationwide. The dry summer, coupled with the winter’s heavy snowfall and low temperatures, may create additional severe consequences for nomadic herders.
Mongolians are experiencing climate change in “real life” says P.Gomboo, and people are suffering.
This year, however, herders are making preparations to outlast the long winter. According to Ollo.mn, herders have stored nearly 208 tons of fodder for livestock, with province reserves storing an additional 3,722 tons of fodder. The length of the winter season — and the amount of snowfall — will dictate whether these fodder reserves prove sufficient.
Winter has arrived early this year and will stay late. While this may not be the coldest winter of the century, for many Mongolians, it certainly may feel like it.