Why the Olympic snow in Beijing is 100% man-made
SPOKANE, Wash.– The Winter Olympics are here, and besides another gauntlet of COVID protocols, there’s a notable difference between the 2022 Beijing games and those before it. There’s no real, naturally fallen snow to be found. This is the latest example of the Winter Olympics, a snow-focused event, coming to a place where little to no snow falls during their traditional February dates.
Beijing has extremely dry winters, averaging only o.2 inches of precipitation during the month and 0.4 inches for December, January, and February combined. There’s just not enough moisture for consistent snowfall in this part of the world.
It’s something that games organizers had to deal with in 2018 a short trip across the Yellow Sea in Pyeongchang, South Korea. While Pyeongchang is frigid, it’s also not very snowy at all; averaging two inches of snow during February. One snowmaking company said that 98 percent of the Pyeongchang games’ snow was man-made.
This pattern of dry winters in Northwestern Asia is because of the Siberian High. This wintertime high pressure system wanders around the steppes of eastern Russia and causes the coldest weather on earth outside of Antarctica. It also sends cold, extremely dry air south across Korea and northern China in the winter. This explains a climate that is cold enough to make snow but doesn’t produce hardly any snow on its own.
Snow, or lack of snow, isn’t a new problem for the Winter Olympics. Sochi is the most tropical place in Russia, but the high mountains outside of the city get good amounts of snow. That gamble with the warmer climate didn’t pay off though in 2014 when warm weather hit during the games. Vancouver suffered similar problems in 2010.
A recent climate study shows that rising temperatures because of climate change may mean that some historic host cities may not be able to host future games. February temperatures in Pyeongchang, Beijing, and 2026 host city Milan, Italy have all risen over five degrees Fahrenheit since 1950.
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