England's cool World Cup
Cloudy news from Japan
by Philip Eden
The England football squad's "acclimatisation trip" to Dubai certainly raised some eyebrows in meteorological circles. The searing heat, sometimes as high as 43C, and dangerous humidity levels found there even in May, are far more extreme than ever occur in the warmest parts of Japan and Korea. England may well have drawn some tough opponents in the first round of the World Cup, but they have certainly avoided the heat and humidity of some of the coastal venues in southern Japan and south Korea. Their visit to the relatively cool northern city of Sapporo should actually make them feel quite at home, meteorologically speaking. Indeed, an acclimatisation visit to Derby rather than Dubai would have been more appropriate.
England's opening match against Sweden on June 2 takes place at Saitama, a suburban district some 25 km northwest of downtown Tokyo. The early-June climate here is rather like August in London. Daytime temperatures average 22-23C, evenings are warm, and humidity levels are typically between 60 and 70 per cent which is rather higher than we get in southern England in high summer. Sunny days are comparatively rare; there is usually a broken cloud-cover, and heavy showers and thunderstorms are quite common. An afternoon or evening downpour happens on roughly one day in three, on average.
The journey to Sapporo where England take on Argentina on June 7 takes them 800 km north of Tokyo, into a different climatic zone. Here, the June climate is relatively cool with afternoon temperature usually around 18-19C, and evenings are decidedly chilly. Relative humidity is typically 60-65 per cent and sunshine averages 7 hours per day - rather better than in Tokyo. June here is the driest month of the year although showery outbreaks do occur once or twice in an average week.
Then it's back south to Osaka for England's third match on June 12 where their Nigerian opponents may well find the climate rather more to their taste. The middle of June typically brings both heat and humidity, although conditions are less extreme than they are in July and August. Afternoon maximum temperatures are normally near 26 or 27C with relative humidity around 70 per cent - this combination occurs rarely in Britain, and as a general rule north Europeans, even fit ones, find such weather uncomfortable and strength-sapping. Sunshine is variable rather than plentiful, and heavy showers and thunderstorms occur frequently.