A snowless Winter Olympics?

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A snowless Winter Olympics?

Postby kurt_w » Thu Mar 28, 2013 8:14 am

The Winter Olympics will be a year from now in Sochi, Russia ... and this winter, there is no snow:

“Last year, there was a meter of snow outside this window,” Lukjanov said.

One year from the start of the Sochi Games, there was none. [...]

In February, World Cup snowboard cross and ski cross events were canceled because of a lack of snow, and other competitions at the Extreme Park were held amid criticism of slushy conditions.

Canceling events is not an option for the Olympics, so the Russians are undertaking a massive snow-manufacturing and snow-storing operation:

Sochi organizers [...] have installed what they say is the biggest snowmaking operation in Europe. More than 400 snowmaking cannons, each looking a bit like a jet engine, are continually spitting streams of crystals for next year’s Olympics.

[...] the goal this season is to stockpile 500,000 cubic meters of snow into 10 shady pockets above the venues. The massive piles will be covered by insulated blankets, not unlike giant yoga mats, to protect them from the heat of summer.

Up to half of the saved snow may melt by next winter, but the site managers said they could conduct the Olympics even in the unlikely event that no natural snow falls next winter.

Sounds like an expensive way to have an Olympics.

Indoor events will be held in refrigerated arenas in subtropical Sochi, a palm-tree-lined coastal resort town on the Black Sea. The mountain site, 30 minutes away, has only begun to be developed in the past few years, and there is little to no weather data prior to 2010, so no one really knows how likely it is that there will be natural snow on the mountains.

The deputy director of the Russian weather service has been assigned as chief meteorologist for the Olympics:

He oversees a team of 50 dedicated to analyzing and predicting weather in the region through next February. The team includes 37 meteorologists. Most others are data technicians, helping assess the 50 remote weather stations that have been installed across the valley in the past three years.

Let's hope the weather decides to co-operate. And if not, let's hope this snow-stockpiling plan works. It'd be no fun if they rolled the insulating blankets off their artificial glaciers a week before the games are supposed to begin, and discovered that all the manufactured snow had melted in the summer heat.

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