As North Americans basked in a January heat wave last weekend, people in Bangladesh were freezing to death.
Across the world, the media reported sunbathing New Yorkers enjoying temperatures that topped 18 °C, up from the usual January daily maximum of 3 °C. But there were fewer stories about how residents in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka were enduring temperatures that fell from the daily average of 18 °C to between 5 and 8 °C. The government called on affluent people to donate warm clothes and blankets to the poor, as doctors reported that more than 100 people had died from the sudden cold.
Meteorologists suspect the extreme US weather was caused by the North Atlantic Oscillation, a distant cousin of El Niño. In Bangladesh, cold air sweeping in from Tibet was compounded by dense smog that prevented the sun warming the ground – smog made all the denser as people burned fuel to keep warm.