As Japan marked the coldest day on the calendar Monday, the mercury fell to its lowest point this winter in many places across the archipelago, the Meteorological Agency said.

The frigid weather is likely to remain later this week, and the agency predicts temperatures to hover around average or sink until the end of February.

Monday coincided with “daikan” (major cold) — one of the 24 solar terms on the traditional Asian calendar. Hokkaido in particular saw the mercury hit record lows for the season at 28 observation points, including minus 31.3 in Esashi, minus 27.3 in Furano and minus 23.2 in Memanbetsu.

Parts of western Japan also experienced their coldest morning this winter, with Nagoya hitting minus 2.1 and Oita minus 1.1, according to the agency.

The freezing weather is expected to continue until around Thursday, an official at the agency said. The agency forecast that warm air from the south will arrive later this week to offer three to five days of respite from the bitter cold.

It’s the seasonal northwesterly winds that are bringing on the bitter chill. This year’s strong winter pressure pattern is making it easier for cold air masses to flow over the archipelago, the agency said.

The meteorological agency official said it is uncertain what relationship, if any, there is between global warming and the freezing weather.

Average temperatures in western Japan between Dec. 1 and Jan. 19 were 0.8 degree lower than normal, the agency said.

Over the same period in eastern Japan, the mercury was 0.7 degree lower than average, while in northern Japan it was 0.3 degree higher, due to slightly warmer days in December, the agency said.

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