Attention for sports and Olympic fans has been about 6,000 miles away from Kansas for the past week. As summer presses on here in Kansas, athletes battle similar summertime conditions in Tokyo. Different parts of the country can have drastically different climates and weather conditions throughout the year.
Northern Japan is characterized by a subarctic climate meaning the winters will be brutally cold along with heavy snowfall. On the other hand, Summers will be warm but not hot for the most part.
Eastern Japan can similarly have some cold snaps and heavy snowfall closer to the Sea of Japan as well as in the mountainous terrain. Unlike Northern Japan, the heat and humidity start to climb during the summer months. Tokyo is located in Eastern Japan.
Western Japan taps into a milder climate where winters are not quite as harsh, though cold snaps are still possible, but the heat and humidity really settle in during the summer.
Okinawa and Amami make up the smaller southern islands of Japan as this region taps into your typical subtropical climate of mild winters as well as hot and humid summers.
Conversely, here in Kansas, our climate is more continental. While we can have influences such as moisture streaming in from the Gulf of Mexico, we are not surrounded by water. Temperature swings will be extreme in some instances during the summers and winters for a week to a week and a half before a pattern eventually changes. We can experience the cold winters, heavy snowfall as well as hot and humid summers in parts of the state and surrounding areas.
Here in Kansas, we experience all of the different seasons. Japan does as well, but the region you are from will determine what those impacts will be. During the winter, a strong area of high pressure sets up near Siberia, and the flow around this high-pressure system, known as the Siberian High, will funnel in cold air to Japan. We can see a similar setup here in the United States where strong high-pressure systems set up closer to Canada and filter in bitterly cold temperatures into the Central High Plains. Due to the mountainous terrain in Japan, upsloping occurs where air is forced upwards, leading to clouds and periods of heavy snow thanks to the added moisture from nearby bodies of water. This tends to happen to areas closer to the Sea of Japan. While this part of the island deals with more clouds, downsloping on the other side of the mountains stabilizes the air allowing the clouds to clear to more sunshine to prevail.
March, April and May mark the transition to spring in Japan, where a more active weather pattern settles in. This means areas of low pressure and high pressure will bring periods of rain and snow as air masses collide. Cold air from the north and warm air from the south provide a focus for showers and thunderstorms to develop. We are accustomed to seeing similar patterns here as fronts, areas of low pressure and colliding air masses usually set up a severe weather season here in the United States during the spring months. Their rainy season, known as Baiu, sets up in early to mid-May in Okinawa and Amami before slowly moving more northward as summer arrives. Tornadoes have been reported on all continents, except for Antarctica, but they are not as prevalent in Japan as we experience in the United States.
Summertime brings back the heat. In other parts of the world, temperatures are referred to in Celsius versus Fahrenheit. For example, in Western Japan, temperatures can easily reach 35°C, which is about 95°F, or more. As the rainy season translates farther to the north during the summer months, clouds and rain chances tend to be more common across Northern and Eastern Japan.
The summer and early fall are when their tropical season is in full swing as tropical storms and typhoons can impact Japan. The peak in activity occurs in Okinawa and Amami during the fall months. Typhoons are their equivalent to hurricanes here in North America. Once storms pass the International Date Line in the Pacific, they are no longer referred to as hurricanes, but typhoons. Rainfall also starts to increase with the transitioning weather pattern to one that is more active during September and October. Once November rolls around, temperatures start to cool off, and rain and snow chances start to return to the country.
Other than some of the more mountainous terrain and more tropical, you probably noticed many similarities to the weather patterns we experience here in Kansas as the seasons roll by.
Breaking down the data for climatological normals for summer and winter in both Wichita and Tokyo, you will notice that our averages are not too far off. Temperatures in Tokyo are just a little warmer both during the day and at night during the winter season than what is typically experienced in Wichita. However, summertime temperatures are almost on par in both locations when looking at daytime highs and overnight lows.
As the athletes wrap up the Olympic games in Tokyo this summer, it is neat to know that the summers there, in some respects, can be relatable in terms of the heat and humidity that we experience here at home in Kansas.
— Meteorologist Erika Paige