Nagoya – Surviving the Japanese summer is always like running a gauntlet. First, you have 梅雨 (tsuyu, rainy season), which can last for a drizzly four weeks of 小雨 (kosame, light rain) to eight-plus weeks of 豪雨 (gōu, downpours) like this year. After that come 猛暑 (mōsho, heat waves), where temperatures regularly blaze past an extremely sticky 35 degrees Celsius. At the end of it, you’re rewarded for your hardiness with a series of 台風 (taifū, typhoons).
And while we all have no choice but to talk about the daily extremes of the Japanese climate, it’s important to level up your Japanese vocabulary to be able to discuss another key factor at play: 地球温暖化 (chikyū ondanka, global warming). The data shows that 地球温暖化 is making weather matters worse, and Japanese summers more miserable.
The basics are well-established. 地球温暖化が進むにつれ (chikyū ondanka ga susumu ni tsure, as global warming advances), 温度が上がっていき (ondo ga agatte-iki, temperatures continues to rise) and 降水量が増えていきます (kōsuiryō ga fuete-ikimasu, the amount of precipitation continues to increase). Adding that いきます to the end of the te-form of a verb means that that verb (in this case, to rise or to increase), will keep on verb-ing into the future. You can also express the reverse, that a verb has verb-ed up until now, by adding きました to a verb’s te-form. For example, 札幌の雪の量が減ってきました (Sapporo no yuki no ryō ga hette-kimashita, the amount of snow in Sapporo has decreased), which is certainly true in the past 10 years.
The basic effects of climate change in Japan are the same as they are everywhere else: higher 気温 (kion, atmospheric temperature), 海水温 (kaisuion, ocean temperature) and 降水量 (kōsuiryō, precipitation amount). Greater frequency and intensity of 猛暑, 台風, 嵐 (arashi, storms), 洪水 (kōzui, floods) and 干ばつ (kanbatsu, droughts).
年平均と比べたら (Nenheikin to kurabetara, compared to annual averages) the weather has become more extreme. Record-breaking rain drowned parts of Kumamoto and Kagoshima in early July, killing 77 and destroying over 15,000 homes. That rain was described in Japanese newspapers not just as 大雨 (ōame, heavy rain) and a 豪雨 but also as 猛烈な大雨 (mōretsuna ōame, severe) and 記録的な豪雨 (kirokutekina gōu, record-setting heavy rain). Meanwhile, August heatwaves are, of course, 暑い (atsui, hot) and 蒸し暑い (mushiatsui, muggy), but they’ve been downright 危険 (kiken, dangerous) in recent years. You’ll hear Japanese people use による, conjugated as により, to express cause and effect in these cases: 2018年の猛暑により、死者が133人出ました (Nisenjūhachi-nen no mōsho ni yori, shisha ga hyakusanjūsan-nin demashita, 133 people died due to the 2018 heat wave). Heat waves mean increased risk of 熱中症 (netchūshō, heatstroke) and in fact can cause life-threatening illness in 27 different ways.
The impacts of climate change also go well beyond the crappy weather. Large regions of central Japan are expected so see substantial decreases in quality rice-yield, since 夏の高温により、コメが白く濁る白未熟粒が発生しています (natsu no kōon ni yori, kome ga shiroku nigoru shiromijukuryū ga hassei shite-imasu, due to high summer temperatures, rice blanches white instead of ripening). These sorts of impacts on agriculture and ecosystems can be described as 予想されている (yosō sarete-iru, to be projected/expected). For one, 日本のブナ林の地域が減少すると予想されています (Nihon no buna-bayashi no chiiki ga genshō suru to yosō sarete-imasu, Japanese beech forests are expected to decline in area). And in bad news for seaweed lovers, 海水温が上がるにつれ、ノリの藻場が消えていくと予想されています (kaisuion ga agaru ni tsure, nori no moba ga kiete-iku to yosō sarete-imasu, as the ocean temperature rises, seaweed beds are projected to disappear).
「暑いですね」という言葉を耳にするたび地球温暖化が頭に浮かびます (“Atsui desu ne,” to iu kotoba o mimi ni suru tabi chikyū ondanka ga atama ni ukabimasu, Every time I hear someone say “it’s hot, isn’t it?,” I can’t help but think about global warming). Learn the vocabulary now and when that inevitable 猛暑 lasts into October or a 記録的な台風 strikes in November you can join the rest of the country in asking the government to do something about climate change. To paraphrase that old saying, everyone is talking about the weather, now it’s time to do something about it.