Two days after central Tokyo experienced unseasonal 17 deg C heat, it is bracing for a rare heavy snow day on Saturday (Feb 9) with possible snarls to its transport networks.
The cold snap has caused delays and cancellations to 141 flights to and from Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita Airports, a tally by the Yomiuri daily showed as of 11.30am (10.30am Singapore time).
More than 20,000 travellers were affected.
Flight delays of up to two hours were reported at Haneda Airport, while at least one runway is closed at any one time at Narita Airport for snow clearance.
While Tokyo usually experiences snow at least once every winter, it typically melts quickly rather than accumulate on the ground.
But the Japan Meteorological Agency said a strong cold front and a passing low-pressure system may combine to dump snow across wide areas of Japan throughout Saturday.
Throughout the Kanto region, which encompasses the Greater Tokyo area, 10cm of snow is expected in Tochigi, 8cm of snow in Ibaraki and Chiba, and 5cm in Kanagawa, south of Tokyo.
While the weatherman had predicted about 5cm of snow was expected to accumulate in central Tokyo’s 23 wards by 6am on Sunday morning, a heavy snow warning that covered central Tokyo was lifted just before 1pm on Saturday as clouds continue to move eastward.
This comes two days after the unseasonal heat on Thursday, which the agency said was typical of mid-April temperatures and about 10 deg C higher than the average mercury for February. The warmth, the agency explained, had been due to a rising warm air front from the south.
The agency has urged people to be careful of icy roads and to monitor closely transport disruptions, as train services have typically been curtailed by delays on heavy snow days. Already, the JR Yamanote line – a circle loop line servicing central Tokyo – has seen slight delays.
Meanwhile, Japan’s northernmost Hokkaido shivered through its coldest day in 40 years on Friday, when its capital Sapporo recording a daytime high of minus 10.1 deg C.
It was the first time in four decades the mercury has breached minus 10 deg C, and news pictures show visitors to the acclaimed Sapporo Snow Festival wrapping themselves up in thick jackets and using winter hats, earmuffs and mittens to protect themselves from the biting winds as “feels like” temperatures plunge to about minus 20 deg C.
The weather agency said this was due to a cold air mass, measuring a record low of minus 24.4 deg C, that was flowing in over Sapporo at an altitude of 1,500m.
Other Hokkaido municipalities also experienced frigid conditions. In Rikubetsu town in central Hokkaido, the mercury plunged to minus 31.8 deg C, the first time this winter that temperatures have fallen below minus 30 deg C.