Monday, November 02, 2009

Fire and Ice

I first came here in October 2006, I changed my climate from an already cold England to a pleasantly warm Korea, and greatly enjoyed being able to walk the streets in a t-shirt at a time I might otherwise be bracing myself against a cold Autumn wind. But as October 2009 wore on in Korea this time, there was no respite from the clinging warmth and humidity of a summer that threatened to never let go of its grip.

There was one cooler day just over a week ago, and on that day the Koreans decided to start wearing long sleeves and coats. It was as though some subliminal command that only Koreans could understand had been broadcast via the television that morning, and they all dressed differently. The temperature was still about 19°C, and I stuck to a t-shirt.

When the weather got warmer the next day, back to the incessantly irritating 24°C-or-so which it has been for most of the time since my return, I expected the Koreans to give up and go back to something more comfortable - but they didn't, which was oddly disconcerting. During the week I sat on in a subway carriage where everyone was dressed for autumn, while far above us a heat-mist clung heavily around the mountains. At the weekend I was up in the PNU district with Korean friends. The biggest wardrobe question on my mind before I set off was whether to wear a thin t-shirt or a thicker one - I went with the former and was glad of the decision. One of our friends, evidently still under the influence of that subliminal broadcast, turned up in a t-shirt, under a shirt, under a thin sports jacket, and they remained on throughout the day in spite of any logic to the contrary. And he was not alone.

This morning I awoke to the news that snow may occur in parts of Korea, which sure enough it did, and when I went outside it was bitterly cold. So two days after wearing a light t-shirt in Busan, I was now wearing a long-sleeve top and a coat, which I quickly had to zip up against the biting wind. I gathered it was about 10°C, but more like five with the wind-chill factor. By the time I reached my destination, my ears were ringing with the cold. So to my mind we've gone straight from summer to winter - a big shock in the land of the four seasons.

Beijing also had snow today, because the sudden cold snap over this part of Asia coincided with Chinese scientists seeding the clouds with silver iodide to make it rain. Which led me to idly wonder to what extent China's climate engineering might impact Korea. Seoul is 594 miles from Beijing and Busan is 770. Is that too far to effect us or not? It's certainly the case that we're getting their 'yellow dust' - are we getting their silver iodide as well, and does it matter? If we are - perhaps it does.

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