Japan’s Sapporo sees earliest 25C day since records began

TOKYO – Temperatures in Japan’s northern city of Sapporo — famous for winter sports — passed 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) on Monday, the earliest point of the year on record, a weather agency official said.

Sapporo, the main city on the country’s northern island of Hokkaido, hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972 and each winter holds a snow festival where massive ice sculptures draw tens of thousands of visitors.

“The temperature in Sapporo hit 26 degrees… and is still rising,” said Shuichi Yoshida, an official at the regional headquarters of the Japan Meteorological Agency.

It is the earliest that temperatures in the city have passed 25 degrees Celsius, which the JMA classifies as a “summer’s day”, since records began there in 1877, he told AFP.

Over 30 degrees is classed as “mid-summer” while over 35 is “extremely hot”, according to the JMA’s system.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that climate change has played a role in the high temperature,” Yoshida said. Other factors such as high-pressure systems may have also contributed, he added.

Globally, this year has already been marked by climate extremes and rising greenhouse gas emissions, spurring fresh calls for more rapid action to limit global warming.

Every month since June 2023 has beaten its own “hottest-ever” tag — and March 2024 was no exception, according to Europe’s climate monitor.

The JMA also says that climate change is making Japan’s famous cherry blossoms appear earlier on average.

Last year’s cherry blossoms, or sakura, began to flower in Tokyo on March 14, tied for the earliest ever alongside 2020 and 2021.

“Since 1953, the average start date for cherry blossoms to bloom in Japan has been becoming earlier at the rate of approximately 1.2 days per 10 years,” the JMA says.

This year, however, the delicate pink and white blossoms arrived later than usual because of cold weather.

Sapporo had been seen as a favourite to host the 2030 Winter Olympics, but the city gave up its bid in October after corruption scandals connected to the 2020 Tokyo Games. –AFP