Watching the weather

This summer, Japan experienced abnormal weather conditions, such as nationwide heat waves, tornadoes and sudden cloudbursts. Recently these weather conditions have occurred frequently, exposing people to bodily risks and causing damage to property.

It is important for both the public and private sectors to prepare for sudden changes in weather like these as well as for major earthquakes and tsunamis.

An experts’ panel at the Meteorological Agency studied the weather conditions this summer by collecting various data and concluded that Japan in fact experienced “abnormal weather.” In August, record hot weather of 41 degrees Celsius hit Shimanto City, Kochi Prefecture, in Shikoku.

Similar high temperatures were also recorded in various parts of Japan. Localized torrential downpours hit various parts of the Sea of Japan coastal areas from Hokkaido to Kyushu. For example, a cloudburst that hit Akita Prefecture on Aug. 9 and 10 killed six people. Tornadoes that hit the Kanto region injured many people and caused property damage. Snowy areas also have come to experience heavier snow than in the past.

The Meteorological Agency says that the abnormal weather this summer is something that occurs once in 30 years or so. But extreme hot weather and localized torrential rains occur every year, affecting people’s lives.

Possible causes of abnormal weather include global warming and temperature rises in urban areas where the earth’s surface is covered with concrete structures and a great amount of heat is released from vehicles, air conditioners, lighting equipment, information technology equipment, etc. It is hoped that the Meteorological Agency and scientists will carry out studies to find out what kinds of factors are causing abnormal weather conditions.

The agency also should improve its ability to correctly forecast weather conditions. In the case of tornadoes that hit Saitama and Chiba prefectures, tornado warnings were not issued in time. The fact is that it is very difficult to predict the formation and movement of a tornado. The central government should increase the budget to improve the nation’s weather radar system.

The Meteorological Agency and local governments should consider issuing warnings to local residents if they observe the formation of high cumulonimbus clouds, which could cause torrential rains or sudden powerful wind gusts, even if such warnings fail to materialize afterward.

In addition to using TV and the agency’s website to issue emergency information on weather, disaster prevention e-mail and radio communication under the jurisdiction of local governments should be utilized more to disseminate necessary weather information directly to schools and people’s homes.

People must be watchful about weather changes because tornadoes and torrential rains can happen anywhere. They should immediately move away from windows if it becomes suddenly dark and strong rains and winds start.

They also should discuss with other family members in advance where to evacuate if an abnormal weather condition, such as a tornado or a cloudburst, develops.