Summers are hotter and drier every year

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Summers are hotter and drier every year

It’s official: Summers are coming faster, and the “jangma” rainy seasons, which are supposed to cool things down, are becoming not-so-damp squibs.

According to records from the Korea Meteorological Administration released yesterday, summer has descended on the peninsula earlier in each of the past three years.

“The first heat wave warnings for the past three years were issued on July 5 in 2008, June 24 last year and the 16th of last month,” said an official at the KMA. “Looking at the dates, we can say that the heat has been arriving earlier every year.”

And Koreans can no longer rely on jangma rains, which usually descend from late June to late July, to cool them down. “The number of rainy days recorded as jangma has declined in recent years,” said An Soon-il, professor of atmospheric sciences at Yonsei University.

“Usually we have a jangma season followed by a hot and dry spell in August, but now the concept of jangma has almost become obsolete.”

In early June 2009, the KMA announced it wouldn’t release any more official jangma forecasts because they would be “meaningless due to weather pattern changes from global warming.” The decision to halt the forecasts, which were first made in 1961, came after the KMA was ridiculed for wrong weather forecasts last year.

However, analysts and weather agency officials say that the change in weather doesn’t mean that the rainy season is gone forever.

“Saying jangma will cease to exist is extreme because of Korea’s geographic location [where two major air masses meet],” said An. “It will be difficult for that kind of change to occur.”

Due to the earlier onset of summer, Daegu was hit with scorching heat this week with temperatures reaching 31 degrees Celsius (87.8 degrees Fahrenheit) yesterday and 34.9 degrees on Tuesday, roughly 3 degrees higher than the yearly average. Daegu is categorized as the hottest region in Korea.

Gwangju also felt the heat when the region’s first yearly heat wave warnings were issued Wednesday. Temperatures peaked at 33.1 degrees Celsius in Gwangju on Tuesday, 4 degrees higher than yearly average.

Provincial governments are taking measures to protect the young and elderly. When heat wave warnings are issued, senior citizens living in Daejeon receive calls from social workers. In Suwon, ambulances are now dubbed “Call and Cool Ambulances” because they are equipped with medical equipment to fight heat-related disorders, including ice vests. The Korean Meteorological Agency predicts that the average temperature of the Korean Peninsula will rise 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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