Japan plans development of early warning system for downpours, landslides

Kyodo

The government will begin working with universities and other institutions to develop an early warning system for sudden rainstorms and mudslides, which appear to be on the rise.

Funding for the project will be part of the budget request for fiscal 2015 starting in April, with rainstorm predictions starting by 2020 and mudslide predictions by around 2030, government officials said Saturday.

The deadly mudslides caused by torrential rain in Hiroshima last week are just one sign that destructive weather is becoming more frequent in Japan.

The National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention will take the lead in the project, which will also request cooperation from government agencies including the land and science ministries, as well as universities and private companies, the officials said.

The mudslides in Hiroshima are thought to have been triggered by thunderstorms in which cumulonimbus clouds rapidly formed by powerful upward air currents caused prolonged rainfall in one spot. The phenomenon is difficult to predict using current technology.

Under the plan, a joint research team led by the institute will develop technology for predicting the formation of cumulonimbus clouds by combining radar and microwave radiometers, which measure water vapor. The information obtained will then be used to run simulations on the movement and development of the clouds to predict downpours an hour in advance.

The plan also envisions increasing the accuracy of tornado predictions and making forecasts for specific areas through research into the mechanics of snowstorms, hailstorms and lightning.