The Taklamakan, China's biggest desert, has experienced its biggest snowfall and lowest temperature after 11 consecutive days of snow, local meteorologists said on Friday.
The snow started in the afternoon of Jan. 17 and lasted until Jan. 27, with the depth exceeding four centimeters, according to the Tazhong Observatory based in the middle of the desert.
Continuous snow also caused the temperature to drop drastically to minus 32 degrees Celsius, a record low since meteorological observation began in the desert in 1996, said Wu Xinping, an expert with the observatory.
The previous record was minus 26.1 degrees Celsius in January 2006.
Wu said snow was rare in the desert that covered 337,600 square kilometers, and never before had the whole desert been covered.
The snow was still three cm deep on Friday, despite sunshine the past four days. The desert has an annual precipitation of up to 100 millimeters.
Unusual cold, heavy snow, sleet and icy rain have combined to hit 17 provinces and regions in central and southern China over the past two weeks, affecting the lives of millions.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs said on Wednesday that 38 had been killed by collapsed roofs, slips and drowning since Jan. 10.
Dozens of others had died in snow-related traffic accidents, according to reports from various provinces.
In Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, about 300,000 people around the Taklamakan Desert had been affected and 44,600 livestock had died.
In Kashgar, the worst hit Xinjiang area, more than 2,100 greenhouses collapsed under the weight of snow and ice. Many others were damaged, leading to price increases for vegetables. The Xinjiang regional government allocated 30.2 million yuan (4.2 million U.S. dollars) for disaster relief.
(Xinhua News Agency February 2, 2008)