Parts of Japan have been covered in more than five metres of snow this week. But the world record is still more than double that

© The Asahi ShimbunSnow to the depth of 5.15 metres is recorded in Aomori, Japan on February 21st.
This is proving a freakish year for weather, but Japan is having an odder time of it than most. The country has had a record winter for snow, and northern Japan is currently coated by unprecedented volumes of the white stuff - more than five metres at higher altitudes, with houses turned into igloos and roads into snow tunnels.

In the Hakkoda mountains the depth of snow has been measured at 5.61 metres - a record for Japan. Even lower down, in the city of Aomori, snow is standing at almost 1.5 metres and bulldozers are having to work round the clock.

© Sergei Karpukhin Heaped snow in Red Square, Moscow, 21 January 2013.
This has also been a record year for snow in parts of Russia - a couple of weeks ago snowpiles of more than five metres caused gridlock in Moscow - and Switzerland, too, has been experiencing dramatic snowfalls, with depths of up to three metres.

These snowfalls, especially those in northern Japan, are remarkable by any standards. But they still fall well short of the all-time record-breakers. Tamarack in California claims the record for the deepest snow ever recorded: 11.5 metres on 11 March 1911. That was clearly some year in the Sierra Nevada, as Tamarack also recorded the largest snowfall in a single month in the US: almost 10 metres.

© Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters A snowblower removes snow from train tracks at the southern Swiss Bernina mountain pass.
The ski resort of Mount Baker in Washington State had more than 30 metres of snow in the 1998-99 season, and almost eight metres in one month alone. Mt Fidelity in Canada gets almost 15 metres of snow a year, and the town of Stewart in British Columbia gets an average of almost six metres.

The deepest snow ever recorded in the UK was in the Forest of Teesdale in County Durham during the great freeze of 1947: 2.1 metres. In towns, the greatest depth recorded is 1.65 metres - at Ruthin in north-east Wales in March 1947, and Tredegar in south Wales in February 1963. Whether any attempt was made to keep trains running and schools open is not recorded.