Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

Snow On Okinawa?

Photo: nachans on Flickr

Snow On Okinawa?

Louise Dupuy

You read it right folks. Snow on Okinawa. For those familiar, you’ll know this sounds incredulous. For those that aren’t, a little insight.

Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan, lies southwest off the coast of Kyushu prefecture. It consists of a chain of islands, known as the Ryukyu’s, and spans a distance of over 1,000 kilometres (621 miles). It’s classed as sub-tropical, which means hot, humid summers and mild, cool winters. Snow is pretty much the last thing you’d expect of such a region. However, scientists from the JMA (Japanese Meteorological Agency) officially recorded snow on January 24th 2016. Let’s look at this in more depth.

The JMA classes snow as: “the first snow falling in the cold climate year (from last year August to current year July) (including sleet).” (Source: http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/kishou/know/faq/faq1.html, translated using Google Translate, and cleaned up to be accurate in English by author). This was a controversial subject here, with many people questioning the authenticity of the measurements, whether on not it was snow or sleet (The JMA regards sleet as snow, as per my above reference), and some going as far as questioning the issue of Global Warming! This is not the forum for controversy. JMA is a scientific institution tasked with watching the weather across Japan, as well as seismic and tropical cyclone monitoring, so they know their stuff!

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Local news picked up quickly and excitedly on the story, you can read some of it here (It’s in Japanese, apologies).

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Although rare, this isn’t actually the first time snow has been recorded. First instance in recorded history was February 17th 1977, 39 years ago. It wasn’t the only odd weather news of the week. As you’d expect with snow, a cold front was experienced. This turned out to be another record for Okinawa, with temperatures across the 18 monitoring sites on Okinawa (monitored of course by the JMA) all recording never before seen lows. The lowest was 4 degrees celsius, in Nago. (See pics of the snow here). This cold snap didn’t last long, however, with temperatures soaring back up to 25 degrees celsius by January 29th 2016. Truly a crazy fluctuation.

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Since this occurrence, weather has continued to fluctuate, dancing between “did we miss winter?” heat and “we might need a boat” downpours. I have to admit, when I moved here I expected non stop sun and no snow, so it was a shock! On a positive note, with the crazy weather, I can’t feel too homesick (I’m from England).