A government climate impact study has shown that average annual snowfalls in areas such as Niigata Prefecture will decrease more than one meter at the end of this century from the current rate if no steps are taken against global warming.
The projections, released by the Environment Ministry and the Japan Meteorological Agency on Friday, were made for every 20-kilometer-square area using computer calculations based on the latest scenarios by the UN Intergovenrmental Panel on Climate Change.
The research also assessed the yearly average snowfall for six areas nationwide except the Amami-Okinawa region.
Among the areas, the Sea of Japan side of eastern Japan, which covers Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures, is likely to see the most significant change.
Its average annual snowfall from 1984 to 2004 was 272 centimeters, but research found the figure could be half of that, or 126 centimeters, in the late 21st century from 2080 to 2100. The other five areas are also forecast to see their average annual snowfalls decrease by amounts ranging from 26 centimeters to 68 centimeters.
The amount of snowfall is projected to be less than 10 centimeters in western Japan.
If greenhouse gas emissions are cut and a rise in the global average temperature is kept at less than 2 C compared with the level seen before the Industrial Revolution, the snowfall could decrease by 26 centimeters while some areas might have more snow.
Experts have voiced concerns that decreasing snowfall could result in lack of snow at ski resorts and snow meltwater shortfalls in spring.
Climate change also has a positive aspect in that snow removal costs could be cut.
"We'll compile potential impacts on society as soon as possible to devise countermeasures," said an official of the ministry's Research and Information Office.