The depths of an arctic winter have hit North Korea, with temperatures falling to lower levels than last year.

Arctic air has been sitting over Mongolia for more than a week, but finally it slumped southeastwards, encouraged by a northwesterly wind from a developing storm system in the Sea of Japan.

A sudden drop in temperature hit the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun, Jilin province, on Monday, lowering the prevailing -14C by nearly 6C. Jilin is a cold place in the winter and Changchun has an average daytime temperature of -10C. This, then, is cold even for Jilin.

January is the coldest month, on average, in North Korea, but even so, Pyongyang should expect a daytime temperature of -3C. This Tuesday the highest temp was -11C, after a night that dropped to -17C. This happened immediately after a mere 5cm of snow fell, and represents a drop in temperature of 15C in 24 hours.

In fact, on Tuesday the whole of North Korea recorded -11C at some point, a figure shrivelled by the following night when it dropped to -22C in the capital, colder still in the countryside.

Wednesday has proved a little less cold, with one or two North Korean cities actually creeping above freezing, in the sunshine. This is a temporary reprieve - this weekend looks very cold again.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies