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Weather Extremes : Second, and Heavier, Snowstorm Hits Tokyo Area. All-time snow depth records set | Weather Underground

: Christopher C. Burt, 8:27 PM GMT on February 14, 2014 +6

Second, and Heavier, Snowstorm Hits Tokyo Area. All-time snow depth records set

As the eastern U.S. digs out of its biggest snowstorm of the season (see Jeff Masters blog on the subject) another snowstorm has hit Tokyo, Japan this Friday-Saturday (February 14-15), the 2nd big snow to hit the city in the span of just a week. Early reports say that 27 cm (10.6”) of snow has fallen in downtown Tokyo as of 2 a.m., February 15th local time. However, extraordinary snowfalls of up to 42″ have fallen in sites in the far suburbs (50 mile radius) of the city, doubling previous all-time records.

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This generalized map of average January snowfall in Japan illustrates how rare it is that more than 10 cm (4”) falls anywhere south of Sendai at low elevations along the eastern shoreline of Honshu Island. Map from Teikoku’s ‘Complete Atlas of Japan’.

Snowstorm of February 8-9

Today’s 27 cm was about the same amount that was measured during the storm of February 8th last week which was 22-27 cm (there are discrepencies in the METARS for that day), which apparently may have been the heaviest snowfall in the downtown area for 45 years (since 30 cm/11.8” fell on March 12, 1969). During the February 8-9 event up to 50 cm (20”) was reported in some areas of greater Tokyo. Notable snowfalls during last week’s (February 8-9) storm included 35 cm (13.8”) at Sendai (about 200 miles north of Tokyo on the eastern coast), its heaviest snowfall since 41 cm (16.1”) on February 9, 1936, Ishinomaki (about 20 miles up the coast from Sendai) picked up 38 cm (15.0”), its deepest since 43 cm (16.9”) on February 17, 1923, and Chiba (across Tokyo Bay from Tokyo) with 33 cm (13”), its deepest fall on record but the POR only goes back to 1966 at that site.

Snowstorm of February 14-15: Greatest Snowstorm on Record for Tokyo Region

It is quite rare to have heavy snowfalls east of the mountain ranges on Honshu Island (as the map above illustrates) and in downtown Tokyo especially. The deepest snow on record for the city was 46 cm (18.1”) measured on February 8, 1883 (this is a depth record, not necessarily a single snowstorm record). So with the 27 cm (10.6”) that has fallen today, following a similar amount just six days ago, this is truly an exceptional event.

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A couple stroll through a park in downtown Tokyo at the beginning of the Valentine’s Day snowstorm. Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi.

Unlike the storm of February 8-9, this latest storm has apparently broken some all-time snowfall records at other locations in the greater Tokyo region. These include 112 cm (44.0”) at Kofu City, Yamashi Prefecture (50 miles west of Tokyo) of which 106 cm (41.7”) fell in just 24 hours. This has obliterated the previous record of 49 cm (19.3”) set on January 15, 1998 (POR goes back to 1894!). Maebashi (50 miles NW of Tokyo) picked up a record 73 cm (28.7”)–71 cm of which fell in just 24 hours– surpassing the previous record of 37 cm (14.6”) set on February 26, 1945 (POR to 1896). Chichibu (30 miles NW of Tokyo) received 98 cm (38.6”)–92 cm (36.2″) in 24 hours– smashing the old record of 58 cm (22.8”) set on February 14, 1928 (POR since 1926), and Kawaguchiko (a mountainous site 50 miles west of Tokyo) ended up with an astonishing 112 cm (44.1″) cm (56.3”)–of which 102 cm (40.2″) fell in 24 hours) surpassing their former record of 89 cm (35.0”) set on January 15, 1998 (POR since 1933). Many other sites also broke their all-time records for single storm and 24-hour totals. The margins of the new record snowfalls over the previous records for the sites listed above are simply staggering.

Needless to say, the heavy snowfall in the greater Tokyo region has resulted in many flight cancellations and delays of commuter rail lines. The Nissan Motor plant in Yokohama (just south of Tokyo) asked its workers to go home early on Friday, an almost unheard of event.

The storm has wound down today (Saturday, February 15th in Japan) so the snowfall statistics are still preliminary.

KUDOS: Japanese climate expert Mr. Yusuke Uemura for the snowfall statistics for both storms.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Categories: Snow

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