How’s the snow forecast for the coming winter season of Hokkaido/Japan? 2020-2021

The Japan Meteorological Agency has announced that there might be less snowfall with warmer temperatures than usual in Hokkaido while Nigata and Nagano might have more snowfall and cooler temperatures this coming 2020-2021 winter season.

Here is a brief summary of what it was said in the snow forecast!

Forecast from the Japan Meteorological Agency

The Japan Meteorological Agency has already announced the weather forecast for the coming 2020-2021 winter season.

Sorry that the image is in Japanese, I will briefly translate what it is saying.

image of the of the weather trends of the winter 2020-2021, from December to March by the Japan Meterological Agency
Image from Japan Meteorological Agency
  • Due to global warming, the coming winter season has a high chance of the temperature to be higher than usual worldwide.
  • Weather pattern La nina has a high chance of continuing to occur through winter, which typically results in a higher chance of cumulonimbus to form in SouthEast Asia.
  • This will result in Westerlies to blow north than usual, but south in Japan.
  • Siberian High which brings quality powder snow to Japan will be flowing more to the SouthWest of Japan than usual, resulting in colder and snowy winter along the Japan Sea, especially the Hokuriku Region. Ski areas in Nigata or Nagano will be enjoying more snow than usual.
  • Hokkaido will be dominated by low air pressure, resulting in lesser snow and higher temperature than usual.
image of the snowforecast of 2020-2021 winter by the Japan Meterological Agency
Image from Japan Meteorological Agency

This map shows how the temperature will look like this coming December-February.

White is same as usual while yellow shows a higher chance of the region to be warmer than usual, while blue shows a higher chance of the region to be cooler than usual.

How will it be compared to the record low snowfall of 19-20 season?

Last year, we had record little snowfall compared to usual.

Hokkaido had good powder snow without too much effect in major ski areas like Niseko, Kiroro, and Furano while many couldn’t even open their resorts to lack of snow in the mainland areas.

Hokkaido also had shorter peak periods, making January and February the only fabulous months for winter sports.

Comparing the day of “Neyuki”

When I was working at a front desk in the Niseko area, I came across people not knowing what a “neyuki” is.

Neyuki is when there is a layer of hardened snow on the ground.

Until there is this layer formed, you won’t be able to enjoy snowsports.

We had so many people complaining (especially Asia in the warm climate areas) why they weren’t able to start enjoying winter sports even when it was snowing.

Well, the snow is so soft that it needs enough to harden up and create a layer on the ground.

Imagine making a snowball.

Even if you try to scoop some snow and throw it, it’ll just be blown by the wind and it won’t reach who you try it to throw it to.

So you would press on it and solidify it so you can actually throw them.

The same thing has to be done with snow layers before you start enjoying winter sports.

It needs some time for the snow to harden up by melting and freezing during the warmer day and colder night, and ski resorts will also use machines to tread down the snow.

This will create a layer of snow, which we call “neyuki”=(根雪)

Record less snowfall last season

While it started to snow on 14th November in Sapporo for example last year 2019-2020 season, the day there was neyuki was on 20th December, 15 days later than the average.

Somewhere in between last year and the usual winter

Looking at the data by the Meteorological Agency, the date of the first snowfall this year came one week later than usual, while it came 3 days earlier than last year.

The first frost date, the appearance of snow worms which relates to the prediction of the snowfall are showing that while it might be a warmer than usual season, it will be a better season than last year! (Fingers crossed…)

We will give another snow report once it’s updated

Although the Meteorological Agency reports are fairly accurate, it is also said that the winter weather conditions fluctuate from multiple factors.

Winters are usually more difficult to predict, while the other seasons are easier to predict, so please use the information as reference, and keep looking for updates that will be more accurate as winter gets closer.

Usually, there is another forecast that comes at the end of November, so we will make an update once it’s released!

What we can say right now is that although the major resorts in Hokkaido will be enjoying better snowfall than last year, Nagano and Nigata seems like the best bet in snow quality this season!

Also, this site might come in handy to check for observed snowfall information in English during the season.

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