With temperatures reaching the low-60s in Sochi, roughly the same temperature at London’s Summer Olympics, for the past couple days, the 22nd Winter Olympics have been one of the warmest on record!
Sochi may not be the last warm Winter Olympics. In a recent study from the University of Waterloo in Canada and the Management Center Innsbruck in Austria, researchers compared the daily maximum temperatures in February (when the Winter Olympics are typically held) for the 19 previous Winter Games host cities. They were able to determine that temperatures have steadily increased from 32°F in the 1920s and 1950s to 46°F in this century. Then by using international climate data and projections for greenhouse-gas emissions, they generated an estimate for the probable average February temperature increase.
Based on these estimations and other climate factors like, “the probability that daily minimum temperatures at the main competition elevation would remain below freezing,” and “the probability that a snowpack of at least 30 cm (about 12 in.) can be maintained at higher elevations of alpine events, through both natural snowfall and snowmaking,” researchers determined that by then end of the century, only 6 previous Winter Olympics host cities – Albertville, Calgary, Cortina d’Ampezzo, St. Moritz, Salt Lake City, and Sapporo – would be cold enough to hold the Games!
While Sochi organizers have been compensating for the warmer temperatures with wintry mix of chemicals, water injections, and strategic snow reserves to create hard snow, many Olympians are frustrated with the poor conditions. This week, over 100 Olympians, including 85 American athletes and representatives from Australia, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K., released a statement, “An Olympian’s Call for Climate Action.”
Spearheaded by U.S. cross-country skier and three-time Olympian Andy Newell, the statement asks global leader to “recognize climate change by reducing emissions, embracing clean energy, and preparing a commitment to global agreement at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris 2015.” The statement continued, “snow conditions are becoming much more inconsistent, weather patterns more erratic, and what was once a topic for discussion is now reality and fact. Our climate is changing and we are losing our winters.”