Back in 1982, female vocalist Naoko Ken scored a hit record with "Natsu Akiramete" (Give up on Summer).
The lyrics of its refrain, in English, went:
"Darlin' can't you see?
I'll try to make it shine.
Darlin' be with me!
Let's get to be so fine."
Four decades since Naoko-chan crooned her hit, climate change is upon us with a vengeance. Which for Japan implies prolonged summers, followed by autumns so brief in duration as to be practically unnoticeable. Which is why for its headline Shukan Gendai (9/30-10/7) picked "Aki Akiramete" (Give up on Autumns).
Let's briefly review the brutal summer of 2023 and its aftermath. First of all, Tokyo set a new record for total number of manatsubi (days over 30 degrees), at 88. On Sept 15, Nagoya posted its latest date for a moshobi (fiercely hot day, of 35 degrees or higher) since record keeping began. And it appears that in the upcoming months of October and November we're in for unseasonably warm weather. Which means the glorious spectacle of koyo (colorful autumn leaves) will be pushed even later into the year.
"In the future, with the exception of a brief interlude of winter, Japan will be hot all year round," predicts Dr Yoshihiro Tachibana, Professor of Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics Division of Mie University. "We might as well think of it as years without spring or autumn."
"Last August temperatures we saw all kinds of irregular phenomena, with high temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius, and the moshobi continuing into September," Tachibana continued. "Unfortunately that won't be over this year. Until a few years ago, we referred to it as irregular weather, but in the future it will have become par for the course.
"You can describe it in terms of 'irregular weather as the new normal,'" said Tachibana. "Japan is in the process of becoming 'a country two seasons,' characterized by seemingly never-ending summers and winters with extreme cold."
Tachibana explains that in addition to higher surface temperatures of the ocean, the North Pole continues to warm, affecting westerly trade winds. These are winds that blow from west to east, flowing along the boundary between the cold air mass to the north and the warm air to the south.
As opposed to the Japan of "four distinct seasons," here are some predictions by Dr Tachibana for what we should expect in the not-too-distant future.
- Augusts will see consecutive days of temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius.
- As the heat will not dissipate in Septembers, more "super typhoons" will be generated. The saying "autumns are for exercising" will be a thing of the past.
- Octobers will see proliferations of swarms of mosquitoes. Fish like sanma (Pacific saury), which are repelled by warm ocean water, will disappear from the dinner table.
- In Novembers, expect "begrimed autumn leaves," devoid of bright colors, that stay on tree branches until knocked off by heavy snowfalls.
- In December and January, waves of extreme cold will descend from the north. Snowfalls will become so heavy there won't be any place to shovel the discarded drifts.
- Cherry blossoms will start blooming in February.
- Sapporo's famous Snow Festival will probably become a thing of the past.
- By the time of school graduations in March, the cherry blossoms will have already fallen.
- Cicadas, the insects symbolic of summer, will begin singing in May.
- Prolonged rainy seasons will extend from June through July, and summers will become so intolerable even the most hardy foreign tourists will cease to visit.
"These abnormal patterns are just the beginning," Tachibana tells the magazine. "My projections are for autumn to completely disappear over the next 10 years, leaving us with super typhoons, downpours of rain and heavy snowfalls.
"Even if we can't completely halt our economic activities, each and every one of us will still need to change our awareness of the need to reduce carbon emissions on a daily basis," he urged.
Tachibana summed up by saying, "The melting polar ice cap cannot be expected to make a quick recovery. For the time being, we're going to have to live with weather much more extreme than what we've been facing this year."© Japan Today