Extreme Weather: How Hot is Tokyo in Summer?

Recently a question was posed on Quora: “How is the Tokyo summer heat?”. Here’s the bulk of my answer:

…   June is the rainy season: not as hot, but, well rainy (though not every day). July is, apparently, the most humid Weather and Climate: Average monthly Rainfall, Sunshine, Temperatures, Humidity, Wind Speed. August is the hottest.

It’s been a long time – 35 years? – since I visited Arizona in summer, specifically Sun City West where my grandparents retired. What I remember, however, is the dry heat you mention. even coming from my hometown of Toronto, a place not known for being particularly hot at any time of the year, I was surprised that the 100-degree-plus days didn’t FEEL hotter than they did (seems to me the hottest temp during one of my visits was 116).

By contrast, a hot day in Tokyo reaches 35 degrees Celsius, sometimes topping 38 (100 degrees Fahrenheit). However, there are two additional factors to take into consideration: humidity, and the heat-island effect.

Offhand, I can’t find any useful stats on just how humid Tokyo can be in the summer, but I can recall days where the temp was around 38 and the humidity above 90%. According to the Heat Index calculator at the National Weather Centre, that works out to 178 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, that ain’t the average, as I say, and I’m not sure any days reached that high in the summer of 2016, but it gets there – and in the summer of 2015 there was a record number of straight days of temps above 35 celsius in early August – in fact I posted about it Big Sushi, Little Fishes: a japan blog

The other consideration is the heat-island effect. I don’t know of any way to calculate how much concrete can raise the ambient temperature of a city, but I do know that walking ib Shinjuku, say, on a hot summer day, with car and air conditioner exhaust, amidst crowds of sweltering people, and a hot wind blowing up the urban canyonland can be an overwhelming experience. Fortunately, there are bars and cafes and shops and department stores and the like, most with over-active aircon, in which to take refuge!

So yes, of course comfortable weather is a relative phenomenon, and coming from southern Arizona the temps may even be a little low compared to what you’re used to. But temperature is only part of the equation; people who know say that in summer Tokyo is a tropical climate, on par with Singapore and other hotspots in southern Asia.

Of course, life does go on – even in heat-island Shinjuku – and there are mountains nearby to escape to if the heat does get oppressive. So the heat and humidity is no reason not to visit in summer: it’s just a matter of adjusting your inner thermostat, so to speak!

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Tokyo Rainy Season 2016

The tsuyu (“plum rain”) rainy season doesn’t kick off officially in Tokyo until June 8, but already a steady rain is falling from skies the colour of dirty rice water. And is forecast to continue to do so every day this week…

Actually, the weather changed abruptly around mid-morning Saturday, Tokyo time. Until then, we’d enjoyed a gloriously warm, sunny, relatively dry early summer – perfect for hanging laundry (just saying). Then, before noon, sombre grey clouds overcast the city, the temperature dropped — and my allergies went into overdrive.

Fortunately, Japan has very effective over-counter-allergy medicine. Unfortunately, the best of the weather may be behind us here in the Big Sushi – and the rest of Japan. The forecast is apparently for a “La Niña” climate cycle to replace the El Niño, bringing – yet another – record-breaking hot summer.

We won’t be alone. Apparently for the first time in history, the whole planet has been setting month after month of heat records since March of 2015, which is itself a record: never before have there been 12 consecutive months of record heat.

 

Kafunsho: Allergy Season in Tokyo – and the rest of Japan

I may well have a lot to say on this subject – later. For now, I just wanna let you know I found an interesting website, Tenki.jp, a weather site which also has a page to map and grade pollen levels across Japan, and report on allergy conditions generally. I’m still deciphering what some of the pictographs mean, but the site looks quite useful.

And, FYI, Tokyo is still apparently in the red, still experiencing worst-case scenario conditions for another day…

Tokyo Snow Fallout

The morning after…

Ebisu at Dawn
Ebisu at Dawn

Well, Tokyo’s first snow storm of the season has passed, and already the melt has set in. Other parts of the country, such as Hokkaido and the Tohoku region, have more snow in the immediate forecast; here in The Big Sushi, however, temperatures should be back in the double digits by tomorrow – that’s Wednesday, Tokyo time.

Back to yesterday’s blizzard… I have to say, it may not be the worst snow storm I’ve seen in my 13+ years in Tokyo (the heavy snowfall on February 9, 2014 set a 45-year record), but it was the worst commuting mess I’ve ever experienced. I left home as usual around 6am, which normally gets me to work by 7:15 or so. Yesterday, however, what with the treacherous walking conditions and the train delays, I finally arrived at 8:35 – almost 1 1/2 hours late. Even so, I was one of the first to make it in, and as others arrived late into the morning the horror stories only got worse: longer delay times, dangerously over-crowded trains and platforms with no safety barriers between passengers and the tracks below. R. tells me she had to wait 50 minutes outside (by then it was raining) just to get into the station. From there, the express train ride which normally takes 20 minutes took 1 1/2 hours. As the over-crowded train waited at local stations with its doors closed, passengers started to choke in the unventilated cars, causing further delays as train crews had to make extra stops to remove sick passengers – which resulted in further delays and even more sick passengers.

According to the talk at work this morning, Tokyo’s train operators decided to remove trains from service in the event of such a snow crisis as this one as a result of a commuter train crash back in February of 2014. problem is, apparently, they didn’t bother to tell anyone… So it goes.

 

Extreme Weather: Tokyo Heatwave, 2015 Part 2

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Apparently, the word for “heatwave” in Japanese is 猛暑日, mōshobi, or “very hot day” (yeah, no kidding!). Tokyo’s got it bad, with a record-breaking five straight days of temps above 35 Celsius, and plenty more on the way, if the JMA forecasts – usually a bit on the conservative side – are at all right. According to this August 5th story on Weather, however, even balmy Hokkaido is getting temps in the 30+ range, and in Tatebayashi, Gunma prefecture, near Tokyo, it hit 39.8 C on Wednesday. Yeesh.

Just glad I’m not in Kyoto…

Extreme Weather: Typhoon Vongfong in Tokyo

5:30 am Tuesday Tokyo time and all is quiet around here. The cicadas are chirping away again, and a pair of chickadees are having a domestic dispute in the bushes outside my open study window. Despite Vongfong being described as the worst storm so far this typhoon season, and some real damage, injuries, and home evacuations in other parts of Japan, Vongfong seems to have been little more than a heavy rain storm here in the Big Sushi.

Today’s weather forecast calls for partly cloudy and a high of 26 degrees Celsius. Back to business…

I’d write more, but I expect trains are running and I have to get to school…