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People in many parts of China welcomed the new year in record-low temperatures, and the cold weather is expected to move farther south, the National Meteorological Center said on Wednesday.
Snow, ice and rain will hit parts of central and southern China over the next few days, and may make travel treacherous for motorists, the center said.
The average temperature in China since the beginning of winter has been -4.1 C, 1.2 degrees lower than normal, according to the China Meteorological Administration. The winter in northern and northeastern China is the coldest in the past 27 years, the administration said.
Beijing is experiencing one of the coldest New Year's holidays in its meteorological history, the municipal observatory said on Wednesday, Xinhua News Agency reported.
The observatory forecast that the cold snap accompanied by powerful wind would lower the temperature to -14 C on Wednesday, approaching the record of -16 C.
In Inner Mongolia autonomous region, north of Beijing, the temperature has dropped to -40 C with snow on ground piling up 50 centimeters in some areas of the Greater Hinggan Mountains.
"It feels much colder than New Year's last year," said Zhu Xinbo, a software designer working in Beijing. "The sudden coldness has made me reluctant to go out. I just went shopping yesterday and plan to stay at home watching TV for the holiday," he said.
The extreme cold has largely been attributed to the shrinking of ice in the Arctic caused by global warming, Zhou Botao, an expert at the National Climate Center, told People's Daily.
The melting of the ice helps push the cold air south, he said.
Major parks, including the Summer Palace in Beijing, received 190,000 visitors on the first day of the new year, the same level as last year, while the number of tourists at skating attractions increased by nearly 20 percent in neighboring Tianjin, according to media reports.
"The ice on the lake is so thick that I don't have to worry at all," skating fan Wang Ying said at Shichahai Lake in Beijing. Wang said she has come to the lake almost every day recently to skate, even though the ice is sometimes a little crowded.
Tang Liang, a tourist from Shanghai, said he visited the Great Wall on New Year's Day.
"The Great Wall is so magnificent, and I think next time I will visit it when I come to Beijing again."
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