Record-breaking heatwave hits Japan, strains power grid

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Nearly 5,000 people have been hospitalized amid one of Japan’s most severe heat waves in over a century, with 37 million people in Tokyo and surrounding areas urged to conserve electricity in response to record temperatures that are straining the power grid.

According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, the number of people being sent to hospitals for heatstroke and heat exhaustion is four times higher than in the same period a year ago.

On Monday, the Japan Meteorological Agency announced the end of the rainy season in Tokyo and neighboring areas of eastern and central Japan, marking the first declaration since data became available in 1951. A strong high pressure has controlled Japan’s weather since the weekend and should do so for another week – possibly longer.

The rainy season, which usually starts in June and ends in mid-July, was three weeks shorter than average this year, lasting just 21 days. Due to exceptionally dry conditions, high temperatures soared to an average of 95 degrees. The maximum in the city of Isesaki, northwest of Tokyo, climbed twice to 104 degrees – the highest temperature since modern records began in 1875.

“Tokyo had highs over 35℃ (95F) for four consecutive days, making it the first time on record for June,” meteorologist Sayaka Mori said on Tuesday. on Twitter. More … than 550 monthly records were smashed across Japan.

Japan tops 104 degrees for first time in June amid record heatwave

In its first-ever power supply advisory, the Japanese government called on businesses and households to reduce their power consumption from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on certain days. Tokyo metropolitan government workers have been asked to work in the dark. In supermarkets across the country, lights were turned off in freezers. Electrical appliances in household goods stores were disconnected.

On Thursday, a thermal power plant in Fukushima prefecture in northeastern Japan was temporarily shut down due to technical problems. The Nakoso Power Station supplies electricity to a large part of eastern Japan, including the capital. The shutdown came as temperatures in Tokyo soared to nearly 98 degrees.

Japan has been grappling with power shortages since March, when an earthquake in the northeast shut down some of the country’s nuclear power plants. But energy demand is at its highest since 2011, when Japan was also hit by a record-breaking earthquake. The economy ministry has warned that the gap between supply and demand is “severe”.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also led to higher energy prices, leaving government leaders around the world in difficult positions. Japan is not the only country to record abnormally high temperatures: Spain, India, Algeria, Finland, Iran and Italy also experienced scorching heat.

To minimize energy costs while conserving energy, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced a reward system to encourage households to reduce their energy consumption.

The government said on Friday it would hand out ‘points’ worth 2,000 yen (about $15) to households if they participate in a nationwide ‘energy saving programme’, sparking outrage on social media as residents grow increasingly frustrated with the government’s mixed messages. In recent days, officials have also encouraged the use of air conditioning to prevent heatstroke.

A quarter of the country’s population is elderly, more at risk of serious health problems due to the extreme heat.

The heat wave is also affecting rivers and dams across the country. The Sameura Dam reservoir is at 34.9 percent capacity, less than half its usual level for this time of year. It is feared that it will dry up in July.

Although Japan relaxed its outdoor mask mandate for the pandemic in mid-May, many residents still choose to wear face coverings outside. The Department of Health, in response, is running advertisements and distributing leaflets to encourage people to remove their masks when moving, walking and exercising. The ministry also launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #lettakeoffyourmasks to raise awareness about heatstroke prevention.

The La Niña weather pattern is likely a major contributor to the persistent heat. This helps move the typical Pacific jet stream and high pressure northward, leaving Japan in a region at risk for heat waves due to expanding heat domes.

Tsui and Livingston reported from Washington, and Inuma reported from Tokyo.

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