Japan is on a lot of people’s lists this winter so we thought we’d look into what El Nino means for Japan’s upcoming winter. Typically, Japan works off a cold wind that comes off Asia, picks up moisture off the Sea of Japan, and dumps that moisture as snow when it hits the mountainous isles of Japan. Like lake-effect snow, but sea-effect snow. Check out the image below:
This winter in Japan, things should be about the same, but NOAA is forecasting higher than average temperatures in Japan. On the northern Isle of Hokkaido, temperatures are very cold and the snow is light and dry. If things warm up a few degrees due to El Nino, thing won’t change much on Hokkaido.
On the main isle of Honshu however, temperatures often hover around freezing and they do get plenty rain in town and occasional rain to the top of the mountains. A warm up of a few degrees due to El Nino could mean more rain in Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen, Myoko, and the other great ski locales on Honshu.
Mountain Watch’s Grasshopper thinks that Hokkaido will see 5% less snow and Honshu will see 10% less snow this winter due to El Nino.
“Generally speaking you can expect a bit less snow and higher temperatures during an El Nino year. The relationship is feeble in Hokkaido as it tends to be subject to larger scale factors. You might expect 5% less snow during an El Nino year compared with an average year. In Honshu you could be looking at 10% less snow. Still not a disaster as you’re talking about an average of four metres plus over the winter in Honshu, and more than eight metres in Hokkaido.” – Grasshopper, Mountain Watch
5 or 10% isn’t too big a deal when you’re talking about the snowiest place on Earth. Last year on Honshu, we saw 600″ of snow in town in only 10 weeks. Mostly likely, it’s still gonna snow a helluva lot in Japan this year, but if you wanna hedge your bets, you might wanna look into heading north to Hokkaido.
Japan doesn’t keep snow records in general so we’re unable to look back to see what the records of previous strong El Nino’s show.
January and February are the best months to ski and ride in Japan and that will still be the case this winter.