While warm temperatures have lingered into late November, Friday (Dec 2) reports that an unusually cold winter may soon be in store for Japan.
On Nov 10, Japan's Meteorological Agency announced it had confirmed the year's second La Nina. The counterpart to El Nino, La Nina results in cooler than average surface temperatures across the equatorial central Pacific Ocean.
"This is resulting in a rise in temperature in the oceans adjacent to Southeast Asia, which is generating moist air and producing cumulonimbus clouds," says Koji Murayama of the Japan Meteorological Business Support Center.
La Nina had appeared in summer 2010, and its effects continued through to spring of this year. The occurrence of a La Nina twice in one year is said to be extremely rare; in fact this marks the first time for such a phenomena to happen since the agency began compiling statistics in 1949.
"One effect of the moist air has been higher air pressures in the northern part of the Indochina peninsula, which are pushing the prevailing westerly winds northward in a zigzag direction," says Murayama. "This zigzagging can be expected push cold air toward Japan."
Murayama believes another factor that is expected to cause Japan's temperatures to drop is the Arctic oscillation.
"Air pressure around the north pole is higher than average years, while the pressure around Japan is lower," he explains. "This will permit large cold-air systems to travel southward. In December, there will be a conspicuous chill extending from eastern parts of Japan to the west. Average temperatures will be lower than normal years, with cold days alternating with warm ones, on a recurring basis."
Of particular concern are people in disaster-hit areas in the Tohoku region, which are still being housed in temporary facilities. Preparations for winter in Miyagi Prefecture, in particular, are said to have been lagging. According to the results of a survey made public at the end of September, the percentage of homes in Miyagi equipped with insulation, double window panes, and an inside foyer at the front door, to block winds and snow, are lower than in Iwate or Fukushima.
"Last May was quite frigid," recalls Kesenuma City resident Sadakatsu Utsumi, who is still living in temporary housing. "I couldn't stand it, so I purchased a 'kotatsu' (sunken table with a built-in electric heating unit). The place where I worked was wiped out by the tsunami and I've got no job, and no prospects. To hold down power costs, I don't use the heater, and keep my coat on indoors."
Another elderly couple near Ishinomaki City complained about the location of the temporary shelter where they've been relocated.
"This isn't a place for people to live," one said. "The winds here are strong all the time, and our house only gets four hours of sunshine per day. The laundry doesn't dry. And work installing insulation isn't finished yet ... When I think of what's ahead of us, it's really disheartening."
The Miyagi prefectural disaster center told Friday's reporter it had started cold-weather preparations on 22,000 temporary units in the prefecture from Oct 24, and began distribution of electric stoves from mid-October.
"We expected to be able to finish up all our current jobs around Dec 20," a construction firm operator tells the magazine. "But work on perhaps half of them will run over into the new year."
Last March 11, it was still winter when many Tohoku residents lost their homes to the earthquake and tsunami. Now it's starting to look like they'll have to suffer through yet another frigid winter in temporary shelters.© Japan Today