*cough cough*

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Bloomberg posted an illuminating article yesterday that broke down the current pollution issues. Guess what? Beijing can move over. Ulaanbaatar’s pollution has it beat–five times over.

Because it’s the Year of the Monkey, Mongolians have been predicting an extra cold, extra long winter. One of our coworkers said they are expecting four months of winter rather than three. (To me, it feels like winter lasts for six months anyway so…don’t listen to the expat who apparently doesn’t know these things. 😉 ) I’ve also heard that there might be an extra nine added to the “nine nines” of winter. What I’ve come to learn about Mongolian weather, however, is that you can never predict what might happen.

We’ve had snow on the ground for well over a month now, which has been nice in some ways. It’s kept the dust down, and the times that it’s been warm enough to snow has helped the air quality. The snow clears out the pollution for a couple of days before it gets bad again. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to stay indoors with Z more often than not. The pollution is so bad that one of the military hospitals is opening a wing for children with pneumonia because all of the other hospitals are full to overflowing. Even one of our teammate’s kids is recovering from pneumonia, and we are fortunate enough to live in a part of the city where the pollution is not so concentrated.

The pollution is so bad…that even Mongolians are wearing pollution masks, and that is an uncommon sight indeed. Usually, the only face masks we see people wearing are because they are sick (or vulnerable) and don’t want to pass on/catch others’ germs. So if you think of us, remember Mongolians this winter, especially those in Ulaanbaatar.

Beth sig

Mongolian Winter

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Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Here in the US, people have been writing about the frigid temperatures, and it really has been very cold this season! The good news in the US is that most people have access to warm housing and their livelihoods are not agrarian. This is not the case for Mongolia, where much of the population lives nomadically and relies on raised livestock.

Mongolia is also experiencing a brutal winter (or dzud) with temperatures reaching -40 C. The Telegraph reports that 2.7 million head of livestock have died from the cold so far. (The link to the Telegraph is for a gallery reporting on this and contains some graphic pictures of dead animals. If you are sensitive to this sort of imagery, be aware.) With winter lasting for several months more, the results could be devastating.

When I bundle up every morning to take the bus to work, I think about Mongolia. As the winter continues, I’ll keep posting about how things are going in the land of the blue sky.

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