Sustainable Asia
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Sustainable Asia

Asia’s January ‘Frostbite’ — our Earth’s new normal?

By Jiaxing Li and Chermaine Lee

East Asia: Coldest winter in decades

As Hong Kong recorded temperatures below zero degree Celsiusfor the first time in history, China and South Korea are having their coldest winter in decades. Seoul’s traffic was paralysed with the snow. China’s official forecasting website even cracked a joke, they released a map that categories the country into different shelves of a freezer with a headline that reads, “which shelf are you on?”

Scientists are now trying to understand why, with some believing the unusual weather is likely the result of a “collapse of the polar vortex”. The polar vortex is a vast mass of cold air in the atmosphere above the Arctic. It was pushed off its axis earlier this month by sudden heat air streams, which some argue can be linked to climate change.

They expect possible ripple effects on weather across the northern hemisphere, which may explain the extreme cold weather right now in Asia.

Cambodia’s “extremely dry” lake, Tonle Sap

The Southeast Asian nation’s inland lake is now in an “extremely dry” condition because of a major drought last year and the El Nino climate effect. El Nino effect is where weak seasonal winds cause the warming of the ocean surface, and bring drier and warmer conditions.

Over a million Cambodians live on or around the lake. It is the world’s largest inland fishery, but the water levels have now plummeted, leading to extremely low fish stocks.

That pushes nearly 2,600 fishing families nearby to the edge of income, so they have to grow crops on the fish breeding grounds just to make ends meet. And there’s not much to fish for, so young people are leaving villages to work in factories in cities.

Taiwan’s country-first real-time landslide monitor

As the self-ruled island is still mourning the tragic landslide a decade ago that cost 500 lives in the southern province of Kaohsiung, the government recently announced that to minimize the damages, it has issued a new landslide alert mechanism in the whole nation based on its first real-time landslide monitor.

People in high-risk areas will receive short SMS message alerts when rainfall accumulates to a dangerous amount, so they can have about five to six hours to evacuate before the landslide hits.

We also covered Malaysia’s large-scale tree-planting campaign and China’s ban on plastics. Listen to our podcast series to find out more. And don’t forget to follow our social media so we can keep you up-to-date on green news.

Sustainable Asia Podcast “GreenBites” Series is hosted by Chermaine Lee and Bonnie Au. Associate producer: Jiaxing Li and Executive Producer: Marcy Trent Long



Taking the most relevant and current sustainability research from Asia to global audiences. Visit our podcast and other media at

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Sustainable Asia

Taking the most relevant and current sustainability research from Asia to global audiences. Visit our podcast and other media at