Ecocentric

Climate Change Could Melt the Winter Olympics

Athletes are getting ready for a warm, soggy Winter Games in Sochi. But thanks to global warming, that could soon be the norm for the Winter Olympics. by mid-century, close to half of the previous host cities could likely be too warm for outdoor sports like Alpine skiing and snowboarding

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Yuri Kozyrev / NOOR for TIME

The "Coastal Cluster" on Sochi's Black Sea waterfront, January 17, 2014. The venue will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as skating and ice hockey.

Among the other worries about the upcoming Winter Games in Sochi—terrorism, empty seats, Shaun White’s new haircut—is something even the czar himself, Russian President Vladimir Putin, can’t control: the weather.

The seaside city of Sochi is actually subtropical, with daily high temperatures around 50 F (10 C), and even though the Alpine events will be held on mountains dozens of miles away from Sochi, organizers are worried that rain and high temperatures will wash out the Games—just as they did in Vancouver during the unseasonably warm winter of 2010. Organizers will do their best to counter the climate with hundreds of snow guns and 710,000 cu m (25.85 million cu ft) of snow stashed from the year before, but Sochi could make for a soggy Games.

It likely won’t be the last. A report (PDF) from the University of Waterloo in Canada and Management Center Innsbruck in Austria found that only six of the previous 19 Winter Olympic cities will remain cold enough to reliably host the Games by the end of the century should the most dire predictions of global warming come true. Even by mid-century, close to half of the previous host cities would likely be too warm for outdoor sports like Alpine skiing and snowboarding. That includes cities like Squaw Valley in California (1960), Chamonix in France (1924) and Vancouver (2010). “Fewer and fewer traditional winter sports will be able to host an Olympic Winter Games in a warmer world,” said Daniel Scott, the Canada Research Chair in Global Tourism at Waterloo and the lead author of the report, in a statement.

(MORE: Climate Change Might Just Be Driving the Historic Cold Snap)

This list is somewhat influenced by the fact that Olympic organizers have been selecting warmer cities for the Winter Games in recent years—with Sochi, by far the warmest city to ever host the Winter Olympics, a prime example. From the 1920s to the 1950s, the average February daily high temperature in host cities was just 32.7 F (0.4 C), a figure that had risen to 46.04 F (7.8 C) between 2000 and 2010. In the earlier years of the Games virtually all events were held outdoors, including ice hockey and figure skating. Today those sports are held indoors, while snow-making machines and refrigerated bobsled tracks have helped organizers adjust to warmer weather for the remaining outdoor sports. But there’s a limit to adaptation—the report’s authors estimate that even under a low emissions scenario, projected average February highs could increase by as much as 3.78 F (2.1 C), and by the 2080s temperatures could increase by as much as 7.9 F (4.4 C) under a high emissions scenario.

Winter Olympians are well aware of the threat that climate change poses to their sports. In April 75 Olympic medallists in skiing and snowboarding sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to take stronger action on climate change. “Without a doubt,” they wrote, “winter is in trouble.” And if climate change is bad as we fear, so are the Games.

(MORE: Climate: Federal Scientists Say 2010 Tied As the Warmest Year on Record)

32 comments
GregLaden
GregLaden

There are two Sochis, in a sense ... http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2014/01/30/there-are-two-sochis/  


This is actually a pretty good idea for a venue because of the contrasts in climate with elevation.


But, generally, climate change is making this sort of thing harder and harder to plan.  Athletes  dropping, and drooping, like flies in Australia a couple of weeks ago and sNOcertainty about Sochi ... we can thank 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere for that. 

jadecrayon
jadecrayon

from the cited paper, footnote 6: "Temperature and precipitation data were extrapolated from the altitude of the climate station to both the altitude of the host city and the altitude of where outdoor snow events were held."

Sounds like there wasn't historical data available at the sites themselves? That is kind of important. How much of a role did the urban heat island play? Does the wave of development and hotels and concrete that hits each host village come into play.Perhaps the Olympics themselves are causing this local warming in each village?

Mlebauer
Mlebauer

If it's such a concern, have the winter games in more northerly locations. Russia, land of frozen tundra, chose to host in just about its warmest region, and a terrorist hotbed to boot! That's not a case for climate activism, it's a case for some rational decision making in the IOC.

Mr.Jeffinator
Mr.Jeffinator

The answer to both questions is "no".


Could climate change melt the winter olympics?

Would adopting the solutions proposed by "CO2 cap and trade" make any difference?  

Eva_fate
Eva_fate

Come to Wausau WI. We've had a ridiculously unseasonably cold winter here. 

GeraldWilhite
GeraldWilhite

This article is astounding! I will sincerely appreciate any civil constructive comments from anybody!


Everybody involved in this article seems to live different world than I live in. To me it seems that they are living in an alternative Orwellian where nobody knows that Earth has had no significant global warming for over 17 years. Even NASA and NOAA agree to that fact. Obviously this is an issue that is very important to those involved in Winter Olympics. 


First I have to ask th most obvious question. Why isn't anybody in the alternative Orwellian Winter Olympics world aware of the '17 year Global Warming Pause'? (See: http://www.thegwpf.org/nasa-noaa-confirm-global-temperature-standstill-continues/ )


Next I wonder if anybody in the Orwellian Olympics world knows that we have determined that CO2 is NOT the control knob for climate change? It seems like to me that all the planning reports and studies in the Orwellian Winter Olympics work might be wrong ---very wrong.  


Does anybody know that both Arctic and Antarctic ice is increasing, with Antarctic being at an all-time high? Does anybody know that sea level increases are expected to continue at about 7" per century? Does anybody know that the Sum is acting very strange, suggesting a time of extended cold that could last for a century of more? 


When it comes to climate science issues, one of my favorite sources is Dr. Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. I was mightily impressed with her recent testimony to the US Senate. It is a concise 'state-of-the-art report' for climate science, written in plain understandable leanguage. In my opinion it is also a very good read for anyone interested in the subject. (See:  https://www.google.com/search?q=dr+judith+curry&oq=dr+judith+curry&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.6796j0j8&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8



AdamLu
AdamLu

~1 degree in 130 years = Armageddon. 

joethenobody
joethenobody

Please stop with the global warming crap, please. Its just a cycle I'm  sure which has been going on since the beginning of this earth.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

Vladimir Putin invites LGBT community to Sochi

Russia will welcome all participants and guests of the Sochi Olympics irrespective of their sexuality, President Vladimir Putin has said.

On gays at the Olympics: Vladimir Putin stressed that in Russia, unlike in 70 countries of the world and even in some U.S. states, homosexuality is not prosecuted. “So gay people who are coming to the Olympics as athletes or guests should have no concerns or fears,” he added.

On security at the 2014 Olympics: Putin said Russia is well aware of the threat to security at the Sochi Olympics and knows how to tackle it. “We understand full well what it is, what this threat is, how to reduce it, how to tackle it,” he said.

AlexandreGarcia
AlexandreGarcia

Oh, yeah, that's right.
We can all see the awful effects of global warming this winter.

JonathanMartin
JonathanMartin

Don't worry, up here in Canada you can have the winter games for a good long time to come. No sign of global warming here

GregLaden
GregLaden

@jadecrayon Yeah, I've been looking for that.  Seems like there is not a lot of good information.  

BruceMorganWilliams
BruceMorganWilliams

@joethenobody -If you know something the world expert scientists (who have been studying this over 20 years)  don't know,  please share.   And it better be peer-reviewed, or don't bother.

Buzznut
Buzznut

@AlexandreGarcia Oh yea, the temperature in front of my nose is a representation of the global temperature and the temperature around the world don't affect me . I know I'm right, hundreds of  climate scientists don't know what they're talking about

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

If you want a clean planet then go for a clean planet... I want a clean planet....Please stop using global warming to exaggerate the point

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

If the liberal goal is to get everybody to want a cleaner earth, then state that as the reason.. I have been to clean places, I wish it was all like that... The doom and gloom doesn't work for people... While the temperature may be rising, the apocalypse isn't going to happen, it just isn't... That is what annoys people and that is why people are resistant to the agenda of a cleaner planet because for whatever reason the left, who I understand a lot of their stances, I just can't shake how much they have to exaggerate the hell out of it to get the point across

Yoshi
Yoshi

@sciencegal57@RealworldnonfantasylandFrom the same group who sounded the alarm of "Global cooling" 40 years ago. So far, not one dire prediction they've made has come to pass. Not one.

Time to bundle up and go outside and enjoy some of this "global warming".


Yoshi
Yoshi

@sciencegal57@RealworldnonfantasylandWhy are these "scientists" going back and revising past temperature data downward? Take a look at the 1975 NAS plot, compared to the current revision. They've cooled the period from 1890 to 1960. Why? Reminds me of Einstein's joke about changing the facts to fit the theory.

Also, why is it that every prediction made has been the opposite of the reality observed, especially since Mr. Hansen's 1988 testimony?

sciencegal57
sciencegal57

@Realworldnonfantasyland How do you know? Do you know something that NASA, NOAA, the Met Office, and every major academic and scientific institution around the world doesn't know? Try looking at the real science instead of media reports. This has nothing to do with being liberal--the liberal spin on climate change was created by politicians, the Koch Brothers, the Heartland Institute, and Fox News-- climate change has everything to with science. 

Buzznut
Buzznut

@Realworldnonfantasyland  Go educate yourself I'm not here for that, or just be a little more observant.   People are like roaches and they will still be around after the fact. I'm old enough to have seen the changes, does the majority care or notice climate change, probably not. In Siberian flats methane gases are escaping more readily because the permafrost is melting and the energy companies are happy, that's why all the global warming detractors (Politicians)are paid off by energy companies. People only care what affects them right now and they'll forget as soon as there a distraction. On CNN they interrupted an important NSA interview to tell us Justin Bieber was arrested. We might be having a cold spell, but Australia is having record droughts and heat, California the same, floods in Indonesia at places never seen before. You will be long dead before it affects you. I for one would like my kids to enjoy OUR planet. Lets wait and see what happens the next few seasons, THEN  try to do something about it. I tend to trust science, it solves a lot of problems and gives me a lot cool of stuff. Maybe we should be more concerned about having more guns and start stocking up to fight the govt drones and tanks, because that will help us. Control information, education, money and you will control the people. Controlling the people is probably what that rich people summit was about in Switzerland. By the way if you start arguing about Left vs Right you're you're limiting yourself to their views, think for yourself. 

PrestonNickolasAlexander
PrestonNickolasAlexander

@Realworldnonfantasyland You make a very important point regarding our current situation. A cleaner, sustainable environment makes sense for everyone and everything, but the endless pursuit of profits over sensible use of our resources ruins it all for everyone. Until we can modify our economic model to take into account the earth's precious resources things will likely continue to deteriorate. Case in point: the air that all of us breathe belongs to all of us, yet various industries deem it their right to spew their wastes into this air making it toxic for everyone and everything else. They do not own the right to pollute, yet they do it anyway. Our EPA is attempting to clamp down on those practices yet Republicans scream about hurting business. Well, duh...yes, cleaning up their act will indeed cost more...for those companies and yes, they will pass those costs on to us. Again, the pursuit of rampant profits is hurting us. And no, I don't have the answers.

PrestonNickolasAlexander
PrestonNickolasAlexander

@joethenobody@Realworldnonfantasyland You're correct about China, but very wrong about Russia, however. Politics aside, the USSR was, in fact, a leading polluter, but after the breakdown and the rebirth of Russia, much of their industry collapsed and with it went a great deal of their polluting ability. Perhaps you are referring to the fact that Russia contains a wealth of oil and gas reserves which they gladly sell to the rest of the world. Guess what? The same can be said for the US. In fact, the US pollutes more than current day Russia.


I am not defending Russia, but I would like to get the facts correct.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

Case in point this story.... Really? Because the games are held in a place where its not always freezing is why it may be the new norm