There is a word for a particularly terrible winter in Mongolia: Zud (зуд). This word roughly translates to any of the following: disaster, blight, severe weather, or heavy snowfall. Needless to say, it’s not something many rejoice about upon hearing of its imminent arrival.
Cue winter 2012-2013.
This winter will be particularly gleaming, as many parts of the country are expected to be hit with a terrible zud this winter. Many weather reports state that 70% of the country is already covered in snow, many of those place seeing 200-600 mm of snow cover (about 8 to 24 inches). Most of those regions are in the Northern and Western parts of the nation, including the two aimags my city is wedged between: Bulgan and Selenge.
From my own personal observation, there is quite a bit of snow. Most days, it’s too cold for more snow to fall, but the snow that is left behind creates a problem for herders: There is a thick blanket of ice covering the grass for their herds to eat. In addition to limited grazing resources, the brutal cold kills many of the animals. Back in the winter of 2009-2010, over 9 million livestock died in that particular zud.
How can one predict a zud? While at my summer training site there was a substantial amount of rainfall. This summer was rather wet by Mongolian standards, which raised some red flags for seasoned herders. Apparently, it is thought that heavy rainfall in the summer predicates a zud. It’s interesting, since in a country with such sparse rainfall, rain in the summer is usually seen as good luck. Too much, however, forecasts bad news for the winter. I suppose there can be too much of a good thing.
I will watch the nines very carefully this winter, and bundle up appropriately. Quite the first winter to experience in Mongolia, wouldn’t you say?