29 Jan 2008
As hay fever season approaches, Tokyo-based weather forecasting company Weathernews, Inc. is deploying a 200-strong army of beady-eyed, ball-shaped robots nationwide to monitor the pollen situation.
The so-called "Pollen Robots," which weigh 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) and measure 30 centimeters (1 ft) across, consist of a monitoring unit housed in a spherical styrofoam shell. A pair of eyes glow 5 different colors -- white, blue, green, red and purple -- to indicate the level of Japanese cedar and cypress pollen in the air.
Two hundred hay fever sufferers around the country have volunteered to hang the Pollen Robots outside their homes, where they will monitor the air and send minute-by-minute reports over the Internet to Weathernews headquarters in Tokyo. The data will be used to update the company's online pollen map.
Weathernews is forecasting higher-than-normal pollen counts this spring.
18 Apr 2006
In an annual rite of spring, scientists in Japan carefully monitor the atmosphere for yellow dust. Also known as Asian dust, yellow sand or yellow wind, yellow dust is a phenomenon in which strong seasonal winds kick up giant clouds of fine Gobi desert sand. The dust clouds travel eastward, affecting air quality in China, Korea and Japan, and occasionally the continental US.
Japan's Meteorological Research Institute uses a remote sensing technique known as aerosol LIDAR (light detection and ranging) to monitor the status of the atmosphere and measure phenomena such as yellow dust. When weather conditions permit, a green laser beam is shot into the night sky from a small prefab structure belonging to the institute. The laser light is partly backscattered as it strikes particles floating as high as 40 km (25 miles) in the atmosphere, and the strength and timing of the reflected signals allows observers on the ground to analyze the particle content of the air.
On the night of April 17, the Omaezaki weather station in Shizuoka prefecture confirmed the presence of yellow dust in the atmosphere.
[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun]
13 Apr 2006
Toyama Bay is the habitat of the world-famous glowing firefly squid, which surface in large numbers every spring in a phenomenon that has been designated a special natural monument. Peak firefly squid season means big catches for fishermen and brisk business for sightseeing boats that provide close-up views of the magical action.
Early in the morning, after 3 AM, sightseeing boats depart the Namerikawa fishing port (Namerikawa is also home to the world's only museum dedicated to the firefly squid) in Toyama prefecture, making a short journey to fixed nets located about 1 to 2 km offshore. As the fishermen haul in their nets, the light emitted by the firefly squid causes the sea surface to glow a cobalt blue, evoking squeals of delight from the tourists.
Toyama Bay's firefly squid fishing season opened on March 1 and is expected to continue until the end of June. Sightseeing boats are scheduled to run until May 7.
[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun]