Record heat in Tokyo as drought and blackouts loom large on the horizon
The rainy season, which started late, seems to have already ended in Japan. The excess demand for energy, exacerbated by the use of air conditioners, has led the government to appeal to citizens to but back on energy. Climate change is now on the political agenda.
Tokyo (AsiaNews) – The climate crisis of recent weeks might be a taste of things to come with alarming news coming from East Asia.
In Japan, last week-end’s weather forecast pointed to temperatures above 35° Celsius, the threshold for extreme heat warning. The reality was much worse than expected.
On Saturday, the city of Isesaki registered 40.2° Celsius, the highest temperature ever recorded in June. In addition, 60 of Japan’s 914 weather stations topped the extreme heat warning.
For Tokyo, temperatures reached a record 35.4° Celsius on Saturday, the highest since observations began in 1875.
What is more, record-breaking temperatures turned into a heat wave in the capital, as they remained above 35°C for three consecutive days for the first time in the month of June.
Meanwhile, the quarterly forecasts released last week are worrisome, predicting that the heat could rise between July and September again in almost the whole country.
In addition to public health consideration, the heat is having ripple effects on energy supplies. As a result of the hot weather, many Japanese are staying indoors with air conditioning to avoid heat stroke, causing a surge in demand for electricity.
“Electricity demand has been staying above yesterday's forecast since this morning,” said official with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on Monday.
In light of the situation, the government issued a public warning that the country is in an energy crisis, urging people to cut back on their use of electricity.
In Tokyo and surrounding prefectures, projections show the area's reserve power supply capacity ratio would be short of 5 per cent Monday. This is the second time the capital faces the possibility of blackouts in the past few months.
But that is not all. Drought is another risk. In almost all regions of Japan, the rainy season in June-July is starting to look as one of the shortest ever recorded.
Not only did it start several days later than expected, rains stopped much earlier this year. In fact, the Japan Meteorological Agency noted that the rainy season ended 18 to 25 days earlier than usual, the shortest rainy season since 1951 when data began to be collected.
In Western Japan, rainfall was 78 per cent of the average of recent years, while in eastern Japan it was 69 per cent.
Now experts expect heavy rains next month, which might help hydroelectric production, but could also cause serious damage to rural communities.
With drought and blackouts real possibilities, the climate crisis is imposing a very heavy toll on Japan just ahead of next week’s upper house elections.
Although nothing suggests that the ruling party will lose, the energy crisis exacerbated by climate change will certainly dominate the political agenda in the coming months.