The coldest time of the year has breezed into Mongolia along with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of sunlight annually, which will be marked on December 22 this year. Today is the second day of the Nine Nines of Winter, a traditional method used by Mongolian herders to determine the date during winter.

Based on the lunar calendar, herders believed that winter lasted for 81 days, and which is counted in nine sets of nine days, also known as the “Nine Nines of Winter”. Each of the Nines is associated with very practical forms of measurement of how cold it supposedly will be to allow herders to keep track of the days when they didn’t have modern methods of telling dates.

The Nine Nines are as follows:

First Nine:            Mongolian vodka (which is made through a condensation process using milk) freezes

Second Nine:        Regular vodka freezes

Third Nine:          The horns of 3-year-old cattle freeze and fall off

Fourth Nine:        The horns of 4-year-old cattle freeze

Fifth Nine:            Cooked rice no longer congeals

Sixth Nine:           Roads become visible through snow

Seventh Nine:      Snow on hill tops begins to melt

Eighth Nine:        The ground becomes damp

Ninth Nine:          Warmer days set in

The Nine Nines will end on March 12, 2017. However, the weather will become warmer by Tsagaan Sar, one of the biggest holidays in Mongolia, which will start on February 27 next year.

Front – A guide takes visitors in March 2012 onto the frozen surface of Lake Kovsgol. (Photo: Pearly Jacob) Story Page – A guide takes visitors in March 2012 onto the frozen surface of Lake Kovsgol, where an annual ice festival and dog sledding tours are winter's biggest draws. Tourist season in Mongolia typically runs from May to September, but tour operators want to draw more visitors year round. (Photo: Pearly Jacob)
People on the frozen surface of Lake Khuvsgul. (Photo: Pearly Jacob)

According to forecasts, there will be light snowfall in western provinces from December 23 to 26. Most of the country is expected to be covered in snow by December 25, with snow storms expected in the evening.

The National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring warned about wind gusts reaching up to 16 meters per second near Altain Mountains on December 23, in western and central provinces on December 24, and eastern provinces on December 25.

Those living near Uvs Lake, Darkhad Valley, Khuren Belcheer area, and Ider, Tes and Yuruu Rivers need to bundle up as temperatures will drop to -32 degrees Celsius at night and -25 degrees Celsius during the day.

The temperature will sway between -23 and -28 at night and rise to -15 degrees Celsius during the day in mountainous terrains of Khangai, Khuvsgul and Khentii Mountains, as well as river valleys of Orkhon, Selenge, Kharaa, Tuul, Terelj, Kherlen, Onon, Ulz and Khalkh Rivers.

Weather reports say that the temperature will stay relatively warmer in Gobi regions, reaching -14 degrees at night and 0 to -5 degrees Celsius during the day. Other regions will experience -23 degrees Celsius at night and -11 degrees Celsius during the day.

Drastic temperature drops have been forecasted in northern parts of the country on Sunday, and the cold weather is expected to spread throughout the rest of the country in the following days.

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