The snowiest place on Earth: Japan versus La Niña

Tyler Hamilton and Kevin MacKayMeteorologists

Japan's recent record snowfall begs the question: Where is the snowiest place in the world?

Place your bets and we'll see exactly where the flakes fall. Does the Pacific Northwest stand a chance?


A continuous supply of Siberian air gathers ample moisture from the Sea of Japan before running into the Japanese Alps, which surpasses 3000 metres. This region will always receive snowfall totals on par with the snowiest places on Earth, but one year stood out.

During the 1944-45 winter, railway workers took measurements at multiple stations in the mountain passes. Oshirakawa Station saw 3555 cm during the season while Sekiyama Station recorded a 24-hour snowfall of 210 cm the following winter.


To help you wrap around these staggering snowfall totals, it's the height of approximately seven giraffes. In other words, super deep.

Recent snowfall has been record-breaking for the region, as record-cold temperatures were observed across Japan, thanks to a frigid Siberian airmass.



With a little help from La Niña, B.C. and the Pacific Northwest can compete with the snowiest place in the world. Just ask Mount Baker in Washington State.

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The world's strongest La Niña delivered an influx of Pacific Moisture, which fell as a tremendous amount of snow at elevation. By the time the 1998-99 ski season wrapped up, the ski area recorded 2,896 cm of snowfall, nearly the height of an eight-storey building!


Heavy snowfalls in early January has ski resorts measuring snowfall in metres, not centimetres. Through January 6th, well over 100 cm is possible to fall across the higher terrain on Vancouver Island.


Verdict: Japan nudges out North America for the snowiest annual snowfall totals in the world -- but B.C. isn't far behind.