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Record low snowfall causing problems for Sapporo Snow Festival

Trucks are seen depositing snow for snow sculptures, in Odori Park in Chuo Ward, Sapporo, on Jan. 7, 2020. (Mainichi/Junichi Tsuchiya)

SAPPORO -- Work to transport snow to the venues for the 71st Sapporo Snow Festival in the capital of Japan's northernmost prefecture, has begun in earnest amid concerns organizers may struggle to secure enough material for the annual event's sculptures.

The festival is set to kick off at multiple venues, starting with the Sapporo Community Dome on Jan. 31, and then at the city's huge Odori Park and its nightlife district Susukino on Feb. 4.

But according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) Sapporo Regional Headquarters, snowfall in the prefecture in December 2019 was just 48% of an average year's level, as based on data from 22 observation centers. It is the lowest recorded amount for a December since records began in 1961.

Largely because winter pressure patterns did not continue for an extended period of time, there was a rare spell in which no snow had settled in Sapporo's Chuo Ward on Dec. 31. Even January is seeing minimal falls, with data as of 5 p.m. on Jan. 7 showing that just 7 centimeters of snow coverage has been recorded, way below an average year's 42 centimeters. It's expected that the tendency toward sparse snowfall will continue throughout the month.

On Jan. 7, a ceremony to commemorate the start of work to bring snow to the venues was held in the city's Odori Park, but the work had actually already been brought forward two days to start on Jan. 5. For the events at the venues, around 6,000 5-ton-trucks worth of snow is required, meaning that this year snow has been delivered from as far away as the Shiribeshi and Sorachi regions of the prefecture. The head of the festival's executive committee said, "Although these are record levels of low snowfall, we want to overcome the difficulties."

(Japanese original by Junichi Tsuchiya, Hokkaido News Department)

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