It's summer in Misawa — so where's the sun?
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Deep into July, some residents here are wondering if summer ever will appear as weeks of unseasonably cool and damp weather continue to plague large portions of northern Japan.
“It’s pretty depressing,” Karen Lindvall said Tuesday, under overcast skies outside Misawa’s base exchange. “I would be outdoors more often if it was warmer.”
“It sure would be nice to have it sunny and bright,” said her husband, Senior Airman Shaun Lindvall of the 14th Fighter Squadron. “We came here from Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, and there were some pretty nice days back there during July.”
Thanks to a stronger than normal high-pressure ridge parked over the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan’s northernmost Hokkaido Prefecture, those bright and sunny Misawa days have been replaced almost daily by low clouds, persistent sea fogs and mist.
“It has been colder than expected on the Pacific side,” said Yoichi Furukawa of the Japan Meteorological Agency observatory in Aomori, 45 miles northwest of Misawa.
The agency’s weather records indicate Misawa area temperatures have been 6.7 degrees lower than average from June 24 through July 17.
As of Wednesday, Misawa’s rainfall total for this month stood at 4.65 inches, slightly above the July average of 4.54 inches.
The wetter, chillier-than-usual weather may be discouraging usual summertime outdoor activities.
“Boating rentals at the base beach on Lake Ogawara are down about 25 percent from our historical norms,” said Maj. Kari Mostert, 35th Services Squadron commander whose unit offers canoe, paddleboat and sailboat rentals.
He said lifeguards who normally would be working the base’s beach instead are being shifted to support increased use of the Himberg indoor swimming pool and allow expanded hours there.
Furukawa said the Sea of Okhotsk high-pressure air mass often appears during the tsuyu, or rainy, season.
This summer, however, it has lingered, dropping temperatures and forming dense sea fogs that have hindered Misawa training flights.
On Monday, a fog blanket kept visibility ceilings at about 100 feet, forcing U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force training sorties to be canceled.
“The temperature of the water in the Sea of Japan is colder than the water in the Pacific Ocean,” Furukawa said. “If the high atmospheric pressure stays and the air is cooled, fogs break out.”
From June 26 through July 16, Misawa received 22 hours of sunshine — just 25 percent of the 86 hours it usually gets during that 21-day period.
In the Tokyo area, a JMA spokesman said summer temperatures are lower than seasonal averages in the Kanto Plain, too.
“In eastern Japan, the temperature has been 1 to 2 degrees lower than the average year,” forecaster Kiyoharu Takano said.
Weather forecasters appear to agree that this year’s unseasonable weather may delay the rainy season’s traditional end in central and northern Japan.
“The Pacific anti-cyclone strength is weaker than usual, which is causing the rainy season to lengthen,” said Takano, noting the average ending date for Tokyo’s rainy season is around July 20. “The rainy season is expected to be over sometime this week in western Japan, and sometime in next week in eastern Japan.”
Furukawa is more optimistic as far as northern Japan goes.
“The summer in the Tohoku area is said to be unstable,” he said “The rainy season ends on July 26 in an average year … this year, it is expected to be the same or maybe [be] delayed.”
Whenever the rainy season departs, Furukawa and Takano said, August is expected to bring a return of normal weather, with average daily highs of 81 degrees in Tokyo and 78 degrees in Misawa.