Sep 05, 2013

    Hot spell fuels Japan twisters

    A SPATE of tornadoes in Japan is linked to the current hot spell, the country's meteorological agency said, as more tornadoes hit eastern Japan yesterday, tearing off roofs, shattering windows and injuring at least three people.

    Television footage showed badly damaged houses in Yaita, about 10km north of Tokyo, some with their roofs peeled off. One man was injured there.

    Similar gusts also hit nearby Kanuma city, injuring at least two men, a local police spokesman said.

    The winds came after tornadoes wreaked havoc in other parts of eastern Japan on Monday, with a large amount of damage in Koshigaya city, north-west of Tokyo.

    A total of 63 people were injured and about 110 houses were damaged or destroyed in Koshigaya and surrounding areas.

    Tornadoes are relatively uncommon in Japan, but they have hit the nation with increasing frequency.

    The Japan Meteorological Agency said the average annual number of tornadoes formed over land in Japan is about 20, although the figures vary from year to year.

    As of Friday, the nation had seen 17 tornadoes this year. And the number could rise further, as tornadoes are most likely to be generated this month.

    In 2010, when the nation saw a scorching summer, the number was 37, the largest since 2007, when the agency beefed up its monitoring capability for tornadoes.

    At a press conference on Monday, an agency official said this summer was "abnormal", with more heatwaves and localised downpours of heavy rain. The official blamed the abnormality on global warming.

    "In general, the progress of global warming increases water vapour. As a result, we see more local heavy rains and thunderstorms, as well as tornadoes, like during this summer," the official said.

    Meanwhile, forecasting tornadoes is difficult.

    The agency has increased efforts to monitor tornadoes by installing 20 Doppler radars across the nation. However, it has been able to predict only 3 to 4 per cent of tornadoes.