Friday, January 24, 2014

WUWT: Moguls on the Winter Olympics

Sou | 7:47 AM Go to the first of 2 comments. Add a comment

I've gotta stop checking WUWT.  After his "mini-ice age" news, now Anthony is mocking a paper pointing out that it's only going to get tougher trying to find somewhere to hold the Winter Olympics.  (Archived here.) He started out with this:
Where's the snow gone?
A new Vinerism: ‘Climate change threatens Winter Olympics’
Posted on January 23, 2014 by Anthony Watts
From the opportunist headlines department, and the department of Vinerisms “children just won’t know what snow is” comes this press release. Apparently Winter Olympics will be a thing of the past. 

Here's an excerpt from the press release at the University of Waterloo:
Only six of the previous Winter Olympics host cities will be cold enough to reliably host the Games by the end of this century if global warming projections prove accurate, a new Waterloo study has found.
Even with conservative climate projections, only 11 of the previous 19 sites could host the Games in the coming decades, according to the study conducted by the University of Waterloo and the Management Center Innsbruck in Austria.

Under a high emissions pathway, the six locations suitable in 2080 are Abertville, Calgary, Cortina D'Ampezzo, St Moritz, Salt Lake City and Sapporo.  You can download the report here. It's got some good graphics like this one (click to enlarge):

Credit: Daniel Scott, University of Waterloo

Here are a couple of charts I've animated from Berkeley Earth, showing the temperature rise in Sochi and Krasnodar (the region around Sochi), where the current Olympics are to be held, and Vancouver, where the last winter Olympics were held.

Source: Berkeley Earth

The Accuweather forecast is looking a bit iffy, too.  It's just had a nice dump of snow but it may not last.
The weather leading up the Olympics is expected to turn milder which could lead to deteriorating conditions on the slopes used for the Olympic Games.
Whether or not the weather pattern will lead to problems for the Olympics will depend on how mild and how long this pattern lasts, but the concern exists nonetheless.

From the WUWT comments

The moguls at WUWT know a snow job when they see one (or think they do). (Sorry, couldn't help myself. Too punny?)  Here is a sample from the archived article here.

AlecM says:
January 23, 2014 at 9:12 amGawd help us to survive these lunatic claims.

mpainter says:
January 23, 2014 at 9:26 amThis is rank alarmism and in fact is deliberate propaganda. Goebbels would recognize the technique.

Aphan says:
January 23, 2014 at 9:27 amSeriously….a 7.4C average temperature “increase” in temps since the 1920′s?? Except the locations CHANGE? wow

No, mpainter - it's a long way from being the "coldest winter evah" - even in the USA:
January 23, 2014 at 9:30 am
It won’t do them any good- it is the coldest winter evah and people are praying for warmth. Also, the day of climate alarmism has passed and people are either chuckling or yawning at this type of hype.

omnologos says Sochi is almost subtropical in climate, wait for Novaja Zemlja - ha ha:
January 23, 2014 at 9:37 am
Erm…Sochi is almost subtropical in climate. Let’s wait for the Novaja Zemlja Games

JimS also falls back on Sochi having a humid subtropical climate:
January 23, 2014 at 9:56 am
Oh brother! Sochi has humid subtropical climate, and the last winter olympics in Vancouver, Canada is a city with a west coast marine climate (meaning a warm temperate climate where the mean monthly temperature all year round is well above freezing), perhaps the Olympic committee should choose better spots to hold the WINTER Olympics. For pete’s sake, it should be basic that the location of the “winter” Olympics should at least actually have a winter. No?

JimS, I believe the scientists would agree with you.  But that will mean finding a mountainous area with top class tourist facilities and a major international airport nearby. And in a region that will be assured of winter snow and ice conditions suitable for winter sports.  It's not going to get any easier as the world warms. (Maybe omnologos' suggestion could be developed for the occasion.)

 The future of winter olympics in a warmer world, by Daniel Scott, Robert Steiger, Michelle Rutty and Peter Johnson.


  1. While the thrust of the paper is self-evidently true, it takes a rather bogus approach. The paper uses two indicators, the temperature at the elevation of the main competition centre and the reliability of reprecipitation on surrounding mountains. The red figures in the image relates to one-or-both of these indicators falling below 75% reliability.

    The cities that predominate at the right end of the scale are typically lower altitude and or lower latitude, and of themselves are not suitable candidates for the Winter Olympics anyway, other than their proximity to good mountain slopes. Historically, nearly all of the events in these low/low host cities are indoors and outdoor temperature doesn't matter a damn - you can ice skate in Hong Kong and Dubai. Albertville in 1992 was the last host to hold skating outdoors - the ISU now mandates Olympic competition is indoors to ensure consistency in results between venues and over the duration of a competition.

    Sochi itself is humid subtropical (not a million miles away from conditions in western Tasmania, but drier and more prone to extremes), and palm trees grow in the fashionable parts of town. It would be completely unsuitable as a venue except for the fact that its about an hours drive to Europe's highest mountains.

    Skiing is can't be indoors of course, but when events are held at up to nearly 3000m, temperature change is not going to cause problems in the next century. The issue of precipitation at skiing venues is more significant, but having been muddled with the host city temperature, the article is a bit pants, TBH.

    Willard Tony's dog-whistling is predictable, but frankly this press release is a waste of time.

    1. Frank, you make good points but you may be being a bit harsh on the paper.

      When they refer to the "main competition elevation" I figured they were referring to the area for outdoor events. This is because in indicator 1 they discuss the reason for this indicator was its effect on snow and ice, snowmaking and repairing snow surfaces. (They list several indicators they examined of which they selected the two you mentioned to cover off most of these more detailed indicators).

      The other indicator they used wasn't reprecipitation, it was probability of a snow pack of at least 30 cm, through natural snowfall and snowmaking. This doesn't necessarily have to relate to precipitation during Feb or even January. I'd expect this would be based on something like a combined temperature/precipitation with snow vs rain in precipitation. They point out that 30 cm is low and seem to have chosen it to allow comparison with other studies, which typically use a 30 cm snowbase threshold.


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