January 5, 2013 is known as “slight cold”, according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar and the term signifies the beginning of the coldest period of winter.
In reality, the coldest period in China, at least for the last nearly three decades, had already begun on November 20.
Temperatures recorded since the end of November 2012 have been the lowest to hit China in 28 years, the state media quoting the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) said on Saturday.
The weather has been cold enough to freeze sea water off China’s eastern coast, trapping more than 1000 ships in ice.
Cold has even frozen the sea in Laizhou Bay on the coast of Shandong province in the east, stranding nearly 1,000 ships, the China Daily newspaper reported.
Zheng Dong, chief meteorologist at the Yantai Marine Environment Monitoring Centre under the state oceanic administration, told the paper that the area under ice in Laizhou Bay was 291 square km this week.
According to the China Daily newspaper, transport around the country has been severely disrupted.
Over 140 flights from the state capital airport in central Hunan province were delayed, while heavy snowfall forced the closure of some sections of the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway.
Temperatures have averaged minus 3.8 degrees Celsius since the last 10 days of November, about 1.3 degrees lower than the previous recorded average.
Temperatures in northeast China hit a 43-year low and stood at minus 15.3 degrees Celsius, about 3.7 degrees below the previous recorded average.
In Beijing, the mercury has not gone above the 0 mark for weeks. It had snowed here nearly two weeks ago; a lot of that snow, accumulated along the city’s roads is yet to melt. On December 24, the minimum had touched the -18 degree Centigrade mark
“North China experienced its coldest winter in 42 years, with temperatures hitting minus 7.4 degrees Celsius, 2.4 degrees lower than the average level in previous years. Temperatures in north China are expected to pick up next week, although much of south China will continue to experience cloudy skies, rain and snow, the CMA's National Meteorological Center said,” a report by the state-run Xinhua said.
One truck driver in southeastern Jiangxi province, caught in a 5 km (3.1 miles) queue caused by a pileup that happened after heavy snowfall, told China Daily the snow and extreme cold had caught him unawares.
"I didn't expect such a situation, so I've brought no warm coats or food. All I can do now is wait," trucker Yao Xuefeng told the paper.