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24 Jan 2014: Future Olympic Winter Games
At Risk as Climate Warms, Researchers Warn

Vancouver 2010 Olympics
Kevin Pedraja/Wikimedia
Vancouver, 2010 winter games host, is warming.
As few as six of the world's previous 19 Olympic Winter Games sites will likely still be wintry enough to host snow sports at the end of the century, according to a report by Canadian and Austrian researchers. Iconic locales such as Squaw Valley, Utah, and Vancouver, Canada, will likely be too warm by the middle of this century. Even under conservative climate change scenarios, only 11 of the 19 sites would remain climatically stable enough to reliably host the games, the study found. Olympic organizing committees consistently cite poor weather as a major challenge for the winter games, and it's likely to get more challenging: The average February daytime temperature of winter games locations has steadily increased — from 0.4 degrees C at games held in the 1920s to 1950s, to 3.1 degrees C in the 1960s to 1990s, to 7.8 degrees C so far in the 21st century. These sites will likely warm by an additional 2.7 to 4.4 degrees C by the end of the century, according to the report. Technology like snow-making, track refrigeration, and high-resolution weather forecasting can mitigate weather challenges to some extent, but those advances are unlikely to keep pace with climate change, the researchers say. "Despite technological advances, there are limits to what current weather risk management strategies can cope with," said the study's lead author. "The cultural legacy of the world's celebration of winter sport is increasingly at risk."


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