Japan is heading for a warmer-than-average summer, according to weather forecasters, in a development that could mean periods of extreme heat at the Tokyo Olympics.
Forecasts from Japan’s Meteorological Agency and Weathernews, the private meteorological company, suggest that the high-pressure zone in the North Pacific will extend to Tokyo in July.
If the early predictions are correct, heat and humidity will be an added concern for athletes, especially if Covid-19 means they won’t have a long acclimatization period in the country prior to the Games.
High temperatures can also make it more difficult to implement Covid-19 countermeasures, such as wearing masks.
The Olympics will be held between July 23 and August 8, at the height of Japan’s notoriously hot and humid summer. The Paralympics are scheduled from August 24 to September 5. Both events were postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A hot summer would be especially unfortunate, as last July, when the Games were originally scheduled to be held, it was unusually cool in Japan.
Weathernews said it expected temperatures to be higher than average in the Tokyo region, and closer to normal in the northern and western parts of Japan. It predicted temperature spikes in late July and late August.
“The key to the heat is the high-pressure zones in Tibet and the North Pacific,” said Tatsuya Sasaki, a forecaster at Weathernews. “If the highs in the North Pacific and Tibet overlap, we can expect a heat wave.”
Daily maximum temperatures average about 30 degrees in the summer in Tokyo, and the average relative humidity averages about 80 percent. But when the atmospheric pressure is so “double high,” Japan could experience consecutive days with peak temperatures above 35 ° C, Sasaki said.
“We expect temperatures above average between June and August,” Motoaki Takekawa said at the JMA. He said the forecast was still very uncertain and the weather in the second half of the summer would likely be closer to the average.
Long-term concerns about the summer heat in Tokyo have moved the Olympic marathon to the northern city of Sapporo. When Tokyo hosted the Olympics in 1964, they were held in October.
The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee discussed the forecast at a board meeting last week, warning it needed to coordinate measures to deal with Covid-19 and the extreme heat.
It considers how to keep social distance under sunscreen tents, how to avoid heatstroke for people wearing masks, and how to triage the flow of heatstroke victims.
In the original bidding document for the Games, Tokyo said of the summer: “With many days of mild and sunny weather, this period provides an ideal climate for athletes to perform at their best.”