Temperatures reached 41.1 degrees Celsius (106 F), as scorching temperatures killed 77 people and sent more than 30,000 people to hospitals in the country of the rising sun.
A sizzling heatwave has struck Japan, resulting in local records in several parts of the country, including Tokyo, where thermometers logged 40.8 degrees — almost reaching the country’s previous record of 41.0 °C, set in August 2013 in Shimanto, Kochi Prefecture. A few other prefectures also peaked over 40 °C, but the new record was set just a bit north of Tokyo, in the Saitama prefecture.
The heatwave hit right as the country was recovering from devastating floods and hundreds of landslides. Japan’s Meteorological Agency has issued repeated warnings, urging people to drink water frequently and only go in the sun if they need to, but the heat has claimed at least 77 lives, and over 30,000 people were already hospitalized due to heatstrokes. It’s not uncommon for Japan’s summers — which are notoriously hot and humid — to send people to the hospitals, but this year is particularly bad. In Tokyo, there have been 3,544 ambulance calls for heat strokes, already surpassing last year’s total of 3,454.
The heatwave also comes a mere two years before Tokyo is expected to host the Summer Olympics. Authorities have already announced they are preparing special measures to protect the athletes and spectators, like solar-blocking road paint and mobile misting stations, to make the heat more bearable.
Although it’s nigh impossible to draw a direct correlation between global and local events, there’s a mountain of science showing that global climate change can lead to more extreme climate events — both in the winter and in the summer. Heat waves are becoming more common in many parts of the world and already, a third of the planet’s population is living in an area where the daily temperatures are considered lethal more than 20 days a year.
Climate change is not one heatwave, and it’s not one hot summer — it’s a pattern of changes, but we’ve already seen these patterns unfold, from the devastating drought in California to the record-breaking temperatures in Scandinavia and Japan. Again, it’s hard to draw a direct cause-effect line between climate change and Japan’s new temperature record, but this is not an isolated case.
It’s part of a much bigger chain of events, one that’s unfolding in front of our very eyes, and that we are causing.