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Simulations show more heavy snowfalls tipped for inland Japan due to global warming

Weather simulation results announced on Sept. 23 suggest that inland areas of Japan will actually see more heavy snowfalls if global warming continues, it has been learned.

    The simulations by the Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture-based Meteorological Research Institute predict that heavy snowfalls that only occur about once every 10 years in locations including the inland areas of Honshu and Hokkaido will start to occur about once every four to five years. The reason is that inland areas are predicted to keep their tendency for lower temperatures while global warming leads to an increase in atmospheric water vapor, providing the conditions for snow.

    Based on a report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the institute simulated what would happen if greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise and at the end of the century the average world temperature was around 3 degrees Celsius higher than it is now. Ninety simulations were run, based on different conditions such as different ocean surface temperatures. Researchers looked at the predicted snow amounts in 20 kilometer square areas in the Japanese archipelago and nearby regions.

    The results of the simulations showed that in inland areas and mountainside areas in prefectures including Hokkaido, Fukushima, Niigata, Toyama, Gunma, Nagano and Gifu, there would be increased frequency of short-term heavy snowfalls and, during periods of snowfall, an overall increase of daily snow by about 10 percent. In some areas, heavy snowfalls that usually only occur about once every 10 years may take place once every four to five years.

    On the other hand, in flat areas like Tokyo and the rest of the Kanto area, snowfall was predicted to be even less than it is now. In heavy snow zones in flat areas or along the Sea of Japan in prefectures such as Toyama and Niigata, higher air temperatures from global warming were predicted to likely lead to more rain rather than more snow. Furthermore, on a yearly basis the amount of snowfall was predicted to drop everywhere but in part of Hokkaido.

    Hiroaki Kawase, a researcher at the institute, says, "Since the total level of snow will be less, there may be changes made to snow removal services. However, there could be an increase in the frequency of heavy snowfalls that can impact people's lifestyles or lives, so it will be necessary to be able to respond to sudden blizzards."

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