The Sapporo snow festival in northern Japan is a major draw for the region, attracting millions of visitors Photo: AFP/File
national

Warm winter means lack of snow for famous Sapporo festival

9 Comments
By TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA

Organizers of Japan's famed Sapporo snow festival are being forced to truck in an unprecedented amount of extra powder to build their signature sculptures after an unseasonably warm winter.

The festival, which opens in three weeks in the capital of Hokkaido in northern Japan, is a major draw for the region, attracting more than 2.7 million visitors last year.

The main attraction is a display of around 200 snow and ice sculptures built by local residents, officials and volunteers, with help from Japan's Self-Defense Forces.

But organizers have been forced to lay on a record number of trucks to bring in snow from Sapporo's suburbs, and also from towns as far as 30 kilometers away, Fumiya Onoue, an official at Sapporo's tourism office told AFP on Friday.

"We are trying hard," he said. "This is unprecedented."

The task is complicated by the need for pristine samples, perfect for sculpting.

"The snow should be free of dirt, stones or snow-melting agents because they could cause the breakdown of sculptures," he said.

Accumulated snowfall in the city since the start of November has been less than half of an average year, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency's local Sapporo observatory.

Snow melted on high temperatures in mid-December and a low atmospheric depression at the end of the year that brought in warm air, an official there said.

But he was cautious about blaming climate change for the poor snow showing.

"Global warming has been going on for a long time and it's behind all sorts of phenomena," he told AFP. "But we can't simply hold it responsible for this season's particular, low snowfall."

"Winter is not over yet," he added, though the forecast shows just one day of snow expected in Sapporo in the coming week. "We need to continue observation to get a clue on what's happening this season."

The 71st festival kicks off on Jan 31 and runs through Feb 11, with the main sculpture event opening on Feb 4.

© 2020 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

9 Comments
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It'll be no consolation, but it's worse at the ski resorts in central Japan. Very few have all of their courses open yet.

The classic winter weather pattern in Japan is a low to the north east and a big high to the west, which combine to suck cold air across the Japan Sea for massive lake-effect snow. This has not happened once in any notable form this year. It's tempting to think "global warming" will just be the same climate patterns but warmer, but I reckon there is all kinds of non-linear stuff going on, and a real risk of completely different weather happening.

Still plenty of time for more snow to fall, so fingers crossed for better skiing and boarding for the rest of the season.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I went to the snow festival in Sapporo around 15 years ago. LOVED it and loved Sapporo and Hokkaido in general as well.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Global warming has been going on for a long time and it's behind all sorts of phenomena," he told AFP. "But we can't simply hold it responsible for this season's particular, low snowfall."

Nice to see.

Weather varies. In the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, snow was lacking - was unseasonably warm. 10 years on and the city is expecting freezing temperatures and snow. So, there you go.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I go almost every year, so far 5 times. Kids and I love it and also fit in skiing with the great food options. Will check it out from 2/9, hopefully with plenty of snow by then.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

zenzen: "Weather varies. In the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, snow was lacking - was unseasonably warm. 10 years on and the city is expecting freezing temperatures and snow. So, there you go."

I think rather than "weather varies" it's more apt to say the weather is more ecclectic these days, switching from record setting températures every year and the record setting fires they cause after the record setting droughts, to the odd day of snow in a place that never sees it. Certainly the Winter Olympics in SK two years ago were colder than usual, with some events being postponed or cancelled as a result of sub-zero températures and strong, icy winds, but the general trend is still that of warming, not cooling, and it's this general trend that is causing glacial ice to melt (continental, which creates the rising sea levels), and change in currents, generating even more erratic weather patterns and rare phenomenon. It may well be colder than normal in Sapporo next year, but we'll never see a return to summer averages of 28 degrees instead of the current 35 or so, and warming winters.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

You can always fly to Harbin, China, where the temperature on Jan. 5, the first day of the International Snow and Ice Festival was minus 20.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The old UK Christmas cards and paintings of the Winter season always depicted pictures of people in Villages skating upon frozen ponds... I never saw that during my youth, though now I hear the Winter weather of olden days is now upon them again, and such scenes may reappear. ...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The scenes of snow on British Christmas cards have always been anomalous as the normal weather pattern over that period for the last 200 years has been mild and wet. Mostly it springs from Dickens, there was a period of cold winters when he was young which he remembered and wrote in to his Christmas tales, which has influenced people’s perception ever since.

It may or may not be down to global warming, but one season is not sufficient evidence. Also the effects of warming are variable dependant where you are, it can result in colder then previous weather patterns.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Been living in Sapporo for 7 years and the past years you can clearly see Sapporo is getting much less snow, applies to Hokkaido basically. We thought last year was a bad start to the winter, if you like snow, but this year is on another level. First non white Christmas I experienced here since I arrived. Last week I arrived back home after going to Europe for the holidays and I was amazed to see a green, non-white, landscape from the airplane window. A first in all those years, especially in January. It is not just the lack of snow that is causing problems. Last year and the year before it many of the sculptures at the snow festival already start losing their details after the first week due to it being too warm. Some to the point of straight up collapsing, eg the international sculpting competition. If you come to the festival, highly recommended to come the first week.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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