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Japan likely to see no typhoon landfalls in 2020, 1st time in 12 years

The Japan Meteorological Agency's new building is seen in Tokyo's Minato Ward in this photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter.

TOKYO -- So far in 2020, not a single typhoon has been confirmed to have made landfall on the Japanese archipelago. It's exceedingly uncommon for a tropical storm to make landfall in Japan in November or later, so if the situation continues as it has, 2020 will mark the first time in 12 years that the country hasn't seen any typhoons reach land.

    The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) says that the cause is "ultimately coincidental," and is calling on residents not to neglect preparations for future disasters.

    The JMA defines "landfall" as a situation in which the center of a typhoon reaches the coast of any regions between the northernmost island of Hokkaido and the southwest Japan island of Kyushu. Typhoons that cross Okinawa and other small islands are not considered to have done so, and are instead referred to as having "passed" over the areas.

    In the 20-year period between 2000 and 2019, an average of 3.15 typhoons made landfall each year. In 2019, which saw powerful typhoons Faxai and Hagibis wreak huge damage on communities, five typhoons made landfall. 2004 saw 10 typhoons reach Japan's coastlines, making it the year with the most observed since records began in 1951.

    Records show four previous years in which no typhoon landfalls were recorded: 1984, 1986, 2000 and 2008. If 2020 continues at its current pace, it will become the fifth year since 1951 in which none have arrived on land. The number of typhoons that developed in 2020 is also low, with just 22 having formed as of Nov. 20, and only seven of them having approached Japan's islands. All of the figures are lower than an average year's results.

    Regarding this phenomenon, the JMA said, "This is the result of a series of coincidental factors." Sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean were high through the end of July, and the updrafts this created helped neutralize convection currents in the waters near the Philippines, which causes typhoons to develop. This in turn appears to have made it harder for the tropical storms to emerge.

    From August, North Pacific high-pressure systems blocked typhoons' paths as the systems covered the Japanese archipelago while tropical storms were traveling northward, the agency said. In October, Typhoon Chan-hom approached Japan, but a vortex in the skies above the Pacific Ocean ended up pulling it south into a U-turn.

    But even though the number of typhoons has fallen, this doesn't mean people and property haven't been affected by disasters. In September a special warning was issued as Typhoon Haishen approached the Kyushu region. Although it lost strength as it advanced, it still triggered landslides in Miyazaki Prefecture that left people dead or missing.

    An official at the JMA said, "Even if there are no landfalls this year, we can't take an optimistic view about next year. It's important to have the mindset that disasters could occur, and to prepare for them."

    (Japanese original by Shinji Kurokawa, City News Department)

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