The Japan Meteorological Agency has issued its seasonal forecast for winter 2018/19, covering December 2018–February 2019. After a 2017/18 winter that was considered once of the best in recent history, eyes are now firmly on the season ahead.

Japan’s ski resorts are famous for the enormous quantities of snow that fall each winter, often delivering resorts in excess of 10 metres of snowfall over the course of the season. This is due to a weather pattern that sees cold Siberian winds blowing across the Sea of Japan, sucking up moisture and forming clouds over the western coastline of Japan.

The Japanese weather bureau’s forecast (see images below) indicates a 40% chance of below average to normal levels of snowfall, and a 40% chance of above average to normal temperatures.

Speculation aside – Japan’s winter almost never disappoints, and an average season in resorts like Niseko, Hakuba, Shiga Kogen and Rusutsu produces quantities of light, dry snow that are envied around the world. Bring on December!

UPDATE (October 12): The Japanese Meteorological Agency yesterday released an update, increasing the probably of an El Niño event occurring by the end of Autumn to 70%.

What does this mean? According to the Mountainwatch Grasshopper:

“…you can expect a bit less snow and higher temperatures during an El Niño year. The relationship is feeble in Hokkaido as it tends to be subject to larger scale factors. You might expect 5% less snow during an El Nino year compared with an average year. In Honshu you could be looking at 10% less snow. Still not a disaster as you’re talking about an average of four metres plus over the winter in Honshu, and more than eight metres in Hokkaido.”

On the other hand, Japan Ski Tours did their own data analysis a few years back to determine which Japanese region fared best during an El Niño year and came up with the table below.

Their report was published in the lead up to the 2015/16 season – the last time an El Niño event emerged. We now know how that season played out; in short: below average.

With all that said, the major consensus between the two parties – and many others – is that any long-term predictions should be taken with a grain of salt, that there are many different factors at play. Japan Snow Tours concluded their article saying that the “results are variable and sometimes surprising, causing laughter, snow-lust and sometimes tears”, while the Grasshopper opened his with a very clear message: “No two El Niños are exactly the same.”

So, how much snowfall will fall on the Japanese resorts in the 2018/19 season? We will let you know in April.

Japan 2018/19 winter forecast – snowfall

Japan Meteorological Agency’s snowfall forecast for winter 2018/19

Japan 2018/19 winter forecast – temperature

Japan Meteorological Agency’s temperature forecast for winter 2018/19

Japan 2018/19 winter forecast – temperature

Japan Meteorological Agency’s sunshine forecast for winter 2018/19