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Peru's mountain people face fight for survival as bitterly cold winter follows bitterly cold summer

Image
© Martin Mejia/AP
A farmer walks with her son during a potato harvest in Huancavelica, southern Peru.
Climate change is bringing freezing temperatures to poor villages where families have long existed on the margins of survival. Now some must choose whether to save the animals that give them a living, or their children

For alpaca farmer Ignacio Beneto Huamani and his young family, life in the Peruvian Andes, at almost 4,700m above sea level, has always been a struggle against the elements. His village of Pichccahuasi, in Peru's Huancavelica region, is little more than a collection of small thatched shelters and herds of alpaca surrounded by beautiful, yet bleakly inhospitable, mountain terrain.

The few hundred people who live here are hardened to poverty and months of sub-zero temperatures during the long winter. But, for the fourth year running, the cold came early. First their animals and now their children are dying and in such escalating numbers that many fear that life in the village may be rapidly approaching an end.

In a world growing ever hotter, Huancavelica is an anomaly. These communities, living at the edge of what is possible, face extinction because of increasingly cold conditions in their own microclimate, which may have been altered by the rapid melting of the glaciers.

Comment: What planet do Guardian contributers inhabit? Clearly not Earth in 2010! It is freezing in Cuba, Portugal, Thailand!

Igloo

Fruits freeze, iguanas drop from trees in Freezing Florida

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© Wilfredo Lee/AP
A stunned iguana lies on the sidewalk after having fallen from a tree Wednesday in Surfside, Florida. The non-native species becomes immobilized in the cold.
Tourist beachgoers wrap up as Arctic blast hits so-called Sunshine State

Across the so-called Sunshine State, oranges and strawberries are freezing, icicles are hanging off palm fronds, and iguanas paralyzed by the cold are falling out of trees.

Temperatures have plunged as low as the 20s in recent days, forcing people used to wearing flip-flops year-round to put on earmuffs.

"I am a warm-weather boy. There's no way I'm going out there," laughed Archie Adkins of Pensacola Beach as he pointed at bundled-up beachgoers.

Igloo

Cold Weather: Winter is Coldest in Peoples' Memories

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© Tony Dejak/AP
Gert Chisholm, Linda Brockett, and Sandy Sotak walk the streets of Beachwood, Ohio, Tuesday. Forecasters say snow will continue to fall on parts of northeast Ohio that already have two feet or more on the ground.
Cold weather across much of the East has orange growers pulling all-nighters in Florida, city workers in Atlanta scrambling to fix burst pipes, and the homeless struggling in Memphis.

Atlanta

Remember those nasty 1970s winters?

Well, Americans are reliving those cold old days right now as cold weather threatens orange and strawberry growers in Florida, has social service crews working overtime in Tennessee, and fracturing old water mains in Atlanta.

Across the South, Midwest, and Eastern seaboard, a stubborn "arctic outbreak," tacked onto an already cold return to work for many Americans, augurs what meteorologist at AccuWeather.com are calling "the coldest winter in many people's memory."

Igloo

2008 was China's "coldest winter in 100 years"

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© REUTERS/Stringer
Workers carry equipment to fix power cables destroyed due to recent snowfall in Changsha, in Hunan province February 1, 2008
Millions remained stranded in China on Monday ahead of the biggest holiday of the year as parts of the country suffered their coldest winter in a century.

Freezing weather has killed scores of people and left travelers stranded before the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival -- the only opportunity many people have for a holiday all year.

It has also brought China unwanted negative publicity six months before the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

President Hu Jintao chaired an emergency Politburo meeting on Sunday for the second time in a week to discuss rescue efforts.

Cloud Lightning

Heaviest snowfall in 60 years hits China

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© Xinhua
Armed police and railway workers remove snow from the track to free a train stranded near Jining in Inner Mongolia on Jan 4th. More than 1,400 passengers were evacuated.
Falling mercury causes power shortages; cold spell to continue

The heaviest snowfall to hit northern China in nearly six decades continued to snarl traffic yesterday, stranding thousands of passengers on railways and at airports.

The unusually harsh winter weather also caused coal shortages, forcing some provinces to cut power supplies.

Though snow stopped in most parts in the north by yesterday morning, heavy snowfall and biting cold continued in parts of Inner Mongolia, Hebei and Shandong.

The heavy snow led to the delay of 13 passenger trains in Inner Mongolia, and forced the closure of all four airports in Shandong, as well as 30 state highways in northern China.

Beijing Capital International Airport, with more than 1,400 flights scheduled to take off yesterday, reported severe disruptions. By 4 pm, 485 flights took off, 690 flights were delayed for an average of 90 minutes, and 98 flights were canceled, an airport spokesman said.

Igloo

The mini ice age starts here

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© Jeremy Selwyn
A composite photograph released last year to propagandise the issue of melting ice and global warming
The bitter winter afflicting much of the Northern Hemisphere is only the start of a global trend towards cooler weather that is likely to last for 20 or 30 years, say some of the world's most eminent climate scientists.

Their predictions - based on an analysis of natural cycles in water temperatures in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans - challenge some of the global warming orthodoxy's most deeply cherished beliefs, such as the claim that the North Pole will be free of ice in summer by 2013.

According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, Arctic summer sea ice has increased by 409,000 square miles, or 26 per cent, since 2007 - and even the most committed global warming activists do not dispute this.

No Entry

Snow strands thousands of travelers around Europe

Snow and icy weather disrupted travel across Europe on Sunday, closing Geneva airport on one of its busiest tourist weekends of the year and prompting a state of emergency on part of Germany's Baltic coast.

Thousands of passengers were stranded at Geneva's Cointrin airport after heavy overnight snow kept it closed until noon.

"It was the first time we had so much snow on the runway since 1985," airport spokesman Bertrand Staempfli said on French-language Swiss radio at midday as departures began.

Delays were expected as frustrated passengers queued to rebook flights at the airport, where 100,000 people had been due to transit over the weekend.

Many British, German and other European skiers use Geneva airport to reach popular Swiss and French ski resorts in the nearby Alpine region, including Verbier.

Snowman

Extreme weather batters Poland

Eighty-six people have died of hypothermia, rail traffic has come to a halt, and many roads are impassable, after the weekend's heavy snow and temperature drop across Poland, writes tabloid Fakt.

Several localities are cut off from the rest of the world, and thousands of households have no electricity, and the worst is still to come, warns the daily.

As Gazeta Wyborcza reports, Warsaw has so far forked out up to 10 mln euro for clearing roads, which is equal to the amount the city's culture budget. Meanwhile, cars in Bytom Odrzański, western Poland, have to plow through the snow as is in line with the city mayor's money-saving policy. "Why waste the money if the snow will melt anyway?" asked the official.

Igloo

How Long Will the Cold-Snap Last?

The following sample of stories from the past year show that much of the world has been experiencing a cold spell:
  • Across the South, Midwest, and Eastern seaboard [of the United States], a stubborn “arctic outbreak," tacked onto an already cold return to work for many Americans, augurs what meteorologist at AccuWeather.com are calling “the coldest winter in many people’s memory.”
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Snowman

Record cold in Florida strains power grid, sets usage record

Demand for electricity across the bitterly cold Sunshine State has shattered Florida Power and Light's all-time record.

"This morning, we set a new all-time record peak load on the electrical system, with customers drawing more than 23,500 megawatt-hours of power," said Sarah Marmion, FPL spokeswoman. "This breaks FPL's previous peak record, which occurred on Aug. 17, 2005."