As the record-challenging tropical season winds down following December, drought will continue in parts of Southeast Asia, while snow is forecast in some rather low-lying areas of China, the Korean Peninsula, Japan, Mongolia and Kazakhstan this winter.
Although the typhoon season typically turns quiet during the winter, a record number of typhoons is possible through December.
Mild Air to Rule Most of Asia Except for Late Cold Blasts in Northern Areas
According to AccuWeather Chief International Meteorologist Jason Nicholls, much of Asia can expect seasonable to above-average temperatures this winter.
“Areas that may finish the winter with below-average temperatures are most likely in northeastern and northwestern Asia,” Nicholls said.
While much of the winter in the northeastern and northwestern areas may bring average or slightly above-average temperatures, late-season cold blasts are likely in southeastern Russia, northern Japan, northeastern China and the Korean Peninsula, as well as in part of eastern Russia, northeast of the Black Sea.
Late-Season Snowstorms to Blanket Southeastern China to Japan; Stormy in Russia
In terms of storminess, the vast majority of southern Asia and the Middle East will be dry this winter.
However, a very active storm track is forecast from northernmost Vietnam to southeastern China, Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula and southern Japan with mostly drenching rain.
The storms could bring enough snow to slow travel in some major metropolitan areas. Some locations within the swath could be hit with flooding during the most potent storms.
“The cold blasts may link up with the storms from part of eastern China to Japan and result in significant snowfall, mainly during February into early March,” Nicholls said.
While snowfall overall is likely to be below average in Tokyo, with 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) during the season, most of that snow will occur at the tail end of the winter.
In Beijing and Seoul, snowfall will be near to slightly below average for the season with 3-8 cm (1-3 inches) and 18-26 cm (7-10 inches) forecast respectively.
The anticipated storms and their track this winter will translate to four to seven days with snow, ice of some combination thereof occurring in Tokyo. Seoul is likely to be in the heart of some of the wintry storms later in the season and can expect 18-20 days of snow and/or ice. Meanwhile, Beijing may end up on the colder, but drier swath of the storm track and should have in the neighborhood of 10-12 days with freezing or frozen precipitation.
Farther west, a few storms are in store for the Himalayas, far northeastern India, south-central China and northern Myanmar.
Farther northwest, as a very active storm track is projected to extend eastward from part of southern Europe, storms are forecast to frequent areas from southwestern Russia to northern Kazakhstan. This may lead to very snowy conditions and travel disruptions from northern Kazakhstan to northern China and south-central Russia.
“The agricultural Volga Valley of Russia could greatly benefit from frequent rain and snowstorms this winter,” Nicholls said.
Snow would be extra helpful for winter wheat that is planted in the fall, goes dormant in the winter and re-sprouts in the spring. The snow has an insulating effect against severe cold and more slowly releases moisture in the spring.
“Overall, the area from the Black Sea, Turkey and Cyprus to Lebanon, Georgia, Syria, Azerbaijan and Armenia will have fewer storms compared to last winter,” Nicholls said.
These areas still have the potential for some snow and/or rain events and can occasionally be buffeted by gusty winds. The storms could also cause rapid temperature swings, which may lead to isolated flooding where snow was on the ground, and perhaps rapid freeze-ups well inland.
Occasional sand and dust storms are possible in locations farther south including Israel and Jordan, as well as parts Iraq, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the winter will likely be nothing unusual, except that many of these typically dry locations will be even drier than average.
More Smog and Fog to Choke Northern India Compared to Last Year
Temperature inversions could be more persistent and extensive when compared to last winter from central and northern India but can also extend westward to Pakistan and eastward to Bangladesh at times.
A temperature inversion occurs when the air aloft is warmer than near the ground and winds at many layers of the atmosphere are light. This setup can cause pollutants to become trapped near the ground and slow the dispersal of fog that forms.
“Compared to average, there will be fewer fronts and storm systems dipping into the region to stir up the atmosphere,” Nichols said. “The fog and smog may be especially persistent in the valleys of northern India, including New Delhi.”
At times, dense fog will make for slow and dangerous travel and persistent smog could create life-threatening conditions for individuals with respiratory problems. Smoky and hazy conditions in Malaysia and Indonesia, related to drought and fires, will linger into December or whenever the traditional northeasterly breeze kicks in.
Drought to Persist in Parts of India and From Malaysia to Southern Philippines
During this past summer, a large part of India and Southeast Asia received below-average rainfall with areas of significant drought. The monsoon retreated faster than average during the fall.
“Much of the area from Pakistan and India to central Vietnam will be dry, as is typically the case during the winter months,” Nicholls said. “Wet weather could linger in the southern tip of India during December.”
“Dry or drought conditions will continue in Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore and the southern portions of Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines,” Nicholls said.
Should there be little rainfall this winter and if the monsoon delivers less than average rain in part of the region next summer, drought in India and Southeastern Asia could become more extensive and severe in 2016. This may partially depend on how quickly El Niño diminishes.
December Tropics Worth Watching as Typhoon Numbers Challenge Record
With 19 typhoons as of the middle of October, the record of 20 typhoons set in 1972 will be challenged through December.
Following double the average of super typhoons during 2015, tropical activity in the northwest Pacific will throttle back this winter. As of Oct. 21, the 2015 season delivered eight super typhoons, compared to an average of four. Two super typhoons, Koppu (Lando) and Champi quickly spun up during the middle of October.
The northwest Pacific Ocean is typically quiet during the winter months, even during an El Niño.
Even so, notable strong tropical cyclones have still occurred during El Niño years. December will likely be the month to watch this winter.
For example, during 1997’s El Niño, Super Typhoon Paka had 300-kph (185-mph) peak sustained winds. Paka lingered to nearly the end of December. During January and February of that same winter, there were no tropical storms or typhoons in the basin as El Niño continued.
According to AccuWeather International Meteorologist Anthony Sagliani, “Most of the tropical activity, if any this winter, will be during December. Areas that have the greatest risk to be affected by a tropical storm or typhoon would be the Philippines, Palau, the northern Marianas and Guam.”
Minimal tropical activity is likely during January and February of 2016.
“I would not be surprised if there were no tropical systems at all in the western Pacific during January and February,” Sagliani said.