Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Winter Olympics are here! Where's the snow?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 5:46 PM

Ever notice how people get snagged by catch phrases? Take "global warming," for instance. That's not really an accurate description of what's going on with our climate. It's colder than usual in the Q.C. this winter, but it's warmer in other parts of the world. So, "global warming" is confusing and fuels debates about the severity of climate change.

Here's one example of climate change that the world is about to witness on live T.V.: Vancouver is hauling in snow for the Winter Olympics.

The steady roar of a helicopter dumping snow on the Olympic snowboard halfpipe and a caravan of trucks hauling more snow from hundreds of miles away are creating a defining image of the Vancouver Games before the competitions even begin.

On Tuesday, organizers gave the news media their first look at Cypress Mountain, the site of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events, with hopes of allaying concerns about a lack of snow and unseasonably warm weather endangering the competitions. But officials kept the snowboarding halfpipe off limits, citing safety concerns. The mountain looked as if it were under military siege, not an Olympic site days from competition.

Maintenance crews continued to work around the clock. The helicopter, which resembles an orange stick insect, continually shuttled snow from higher elevations. Some of the 160 loads hauled in the past week were brought by trucks that made a three-hour trip. A fleet of snowmobiles ferried workers. Red snow machines, which are effectively highly specialized bulldozers, were in continuous motion. Smaller helicopters moved people and equipment.

The Olympic plans at Cypress were undercut by the warmest January on record, which kept snowmaking to a minimum. According to Environment Canada, the average temperature this year was 7.2 degrees Celsius (45 Fahrenheit), when it normally is 3.3 C (38). From Dec. 1 to Jan. 31, the area received 79 percent of its usual precipitation, but most of it was rain.

Read the rest of this New York Times article, by Ian Austen and John Branch, here.

In related news: Hot Air  Why don’t TV weathermen believe in climate change?

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