Triple-dip La Nina to chill China, Japan, South Korea and buoy energy demand

China, Japan and South Korea will experience below-freezing temperatures over the next couple of weeks. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO - A rare triple-dip La Nina is chilling North-east Asia, with the densely populated region being hit by frigid weather that will add to global energy demand and push up fuel prices. 

China, Japan and South Korea will experience below-freezing temperatures over the next couple of weeks, according to forecasts from the US National Centres for Environmental Prediction. The chill in Asia is coming just as Europe gets lashed by an Arctic blast that is bringing heavy snowfall to Britain and Germany.

That may spur further gains in Asian liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices, which have been rising since the middle of November after plunging from a peak in late August. There could also be more support for coal, and the impact could even spill over into diesel and fuel oil, which can be used for heating and to generate electricity.

The chief culprit is the La Nina weather pattern, which typically brings lower-than-normal temperatures to the northern hemisphere. The first triple-dip La Nina – which occurs when the pattern repeats for three consecutive years – of this century will last until the end of the northern winter, the World Meteorological Organisation said in late November. 

Here is the outlook for key countries: 

China

China will see two cold snaps, according to forecasts from the China Meteorological Administration. The first – which was expected to run from Tuesday through Thursday – is expected to bring temperatures to as low as minus 36 deg C in the Inner Mongolian city of Hulunbuir, while also pushing down the mercury in Beijing. 

Another snap is predicted to sweep across most parts of central, east and north-west China from Thursday through Sunday. Southern parts of the country could see record-low temperatures for mid-December on Sunday, while dry and frigid weather will reduce rainfall, the administration said on Monday. 

That will have an impact on agriculture, particularly livestock and greenhouse farming, as it increases heating costs. Fruits, vegetable crops and even aquaculture in some areas are vulnerable to frost damage, the National Meteorological Centre said. 

A sudden drop in temperatures caused electricity demand to surge in Guizhou province in southern China, forcing grid officials there to order some aluminium smelters to cut power use this week. On top of the freezing weather, nine Chinese provinces have also been whipped by sandstorms so far this week, which can hamper solar power generation. 

Elevated demand for heating fuels may not ease until around the Chinese New Year holidays in late January, when factories power down for the holiday, Chinese consultant Fengkuang Logistics said in a note. Still, activity in many of China’s megacities has ground to a halt amid severe virus outbreaks.

Japan

It is getting colder in northern Japan – with Asahikawa in Hokkaido possibly experiencing temperatures as low as minus 10 deg C next week, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). Meanwhile, there is a 40 per cent chance eastern and western Japan will get below-normal temperatures from December through February, the JMA said. 

Japan has been stocking up on LNG supply to prepare for the winter months, with inventories held by electricity producers well above the five-year average. The government is also asking citizens to save power to the best of their abilities, and the governor of Tokyo has even advised people to wear turtleneck sweaters to stay warm.

South Korea

Cold-wave alerts have been issued for most parts of South Korea, including Seoul and Incheon, with heavy snow expected in the northern Chungcheong province this week, according to Korea Meteorological Administration. 

Temperatures are dropping significantly, but the country has a 50 per cent chance of seeing normal temperatures in January and February, the weather agency said. South Korea will use nuclear power and will optimise its maintenance schedule, while also making additional purchases of coal and LNG on spot markets, the energy ministry said in a statement. BLOOMBERG

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