Will climate change affect the winter olympics?

An image taken in February 2014 at the Winter Olympics in Sochi raised a few eyebrows: A pair of alpine skiers caught in the heat of battle were supposed to be the centre of attention, but it was a male spectator watching them that attracted conversation. Nothing unusual - except the man was shirtless and evidently warm.

Surrounded by swathes of white snow, it was hard to believe that a spectator at the Winter Olympics could be so warm as to remove his shirt and enjoy the games. But the image, which has been redistributed countless times around the world, has posed the questions: Is the world actually warming up? Will climate change affect the Winter Olympics?

The eye-catching image took place during an unseasonably mild winter in Russia. Just a few months before the Winter Olympics were due to commence, organisers had been so alarmed by the rising temperatures that they actually invited local shamans to pray for snow. Miraculously, snow fell during the opening ceremony, but then stopped.

Is this the beginning of something new? In years to come, will we all be standing in the crowd at the Winter Olympics with our summer attire on? Let’s hope not...

 

 Climate change affect the winter olympics

 

Climate Change And The Winter Games

Daniel Scott of the University of Waterloo - where he works as the Canada Research Chair in Global Change and Tourism - has been studying the connection between the environment and sport for more than twenty years. His research became the centre of attention during the 2010 Winter Games, which were held in his home nation.

“They had to helicopter in snow,” he says, after El Nino sprung.

Scott’s studies led him to cast his eye back at the previous nineteen Winter Games to see how the weather had impacted the locations.

He recalls how Austria had to cart snow to ski races via backpacks in 1968, and how Japan had to similarly bring in snow from the outside in 1972 so that the bobsled event could go ahead. So if this has happened many times before how bad is it and what can be done in the future?

 

To Snow, Or Not To Snow

Artificial snow first made its appearance at a Winter Games in 1988 in Calgary, Canada.

How is artificial snow made? With a device called a ‘snow gun’, also known as a ‘snow cannon’. Snow guns allow ski resorts to take advantage of the cold weather even when there's no moisture in the air. As we all know, many of the coldest winter nights are the clearest of nights, where stars  fill the sky and there is no snow as far as the eye can see...

Snow guns spray a fine mist of water into the air when the temperature has dropped below freezing. The water particles crystalise and then fall to the ground adding to the snow cover. This idea was first developed in the 1950's, and technology has advanced a lot over that time.

There are plenty of cutting-edge snow making machines available today that are helping ski resorts around the globe stay in business. 

 

Will The Sun Have The Final Say?

As reported recently around the globe, our sun has gone into a phase of inactivity. What does that mean?

Our sun has a cycle which runs approximately every ten years of inactivity versus activity. In its peak, we can witness a spike in solar flares and sunspots which radiate down to Earth and have a large effect on heating our climate. At the opposite end of the cycle which the sun is heading into currently, we see largely an absense of activity which results in a colder climate down here.

Of course the flares don't always appear in the same place and affect Earth differently each cycle, but there's a large effect felt down here. At some stage in the not too distant future we may even experience another ice age.

Have a look at this image sourced from Naza:

NASA solar cycle image

 

So as you can see we've been dealing with inconsistent winters for a long time, and we will no doubt have challenges to deal with in the future. But there's certainly a lot to be excited about when it comes to future Winter Olympic Games!

We are proud to say that XTM are an official supplier to the Australian, New Zealand, and Danish Winter Olympic Teams. To us, they’re not just athletes, they are our designers, our refiners, our product testers. They are the ones who ensure that XTM produces some of the world’s finest snow and outdoor gear.

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