Gov't eyes developing early warning system against sudden downpours

The government plans to work with universities and other institutions in developing an early warning system for sudden rainstorms and mudslides, as such occurrences appear to be intensifying, government officials said Saturday.

Funding for the project will be included in a budget request for the new fiscal year starting in April, with plans to start predicting sudden rainstorms by 2020 and mudslides by around 2030, according to the officials.

Severe weather has wreaked havoc in parts of Japan with increasing frequency, with the nation currently gripped by the horrific scenes of deadly mudslides caused by torrential rain in Hiroshima earlier this week.

The National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention will take the lead in the envisioned project, with cooperation from government agencies such as the land and science ministries, and the Japan Meteorological Agency, as well as universities and private companies, the officials said.

The mudslides in Hiroshima are thought to have been triggered by thunderstorms in which cumulonimbus clouds rapidly formed by powerful upward air currents caused prolonged rainfall in one spot. The phenomenon is difficult to predict with current technology.

Under the plan, a joint research team led by the research institute will develop technology for predicting the formation of cumulonimbus clouds by combining radar and microwave radiometers, which measure water vapor. Information obtained from the technology will be used to run simulations on the movement and development of the clouds to predict downpours an hour in advance.

The plan also envisions increasing the accuracy of tornado predictions and making forecasts for specific areas through research into the mechanics of snowstorms, hailstorms and lightning.