February 5, 2014
Winter Olympics In Sochi, Russia Highlights Dangers Of Climate Change
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia is just around the corner and not only will the event feature some of the best classes of athletes the world has to offer, but it also showcases how climate change is affecting Earth.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) is using this year’s Olympics to bring awareness to climate change and how the Arctic Ocean is being affected by it. Over the years, the USGS has studied changes in accumulated snowpack and snow cover, and this research has shown recent rates and spatial patterns of change that are unusual.
“This suite of climate driven changes to snow, ice, and water resources documented as occurring throughout the U.S. exemplifies broader global patterns, and now plays an important role in planning for the outdoor events of the Olympic Games,” the USGS said in a statement. “Obviously, both snow quantity and quality can and do have a major effect on athletes competing in skiing competitions.”
Olympic planners were concerned by how little winter snowpack collected in Sochi last year, but this wasn’t the first time this group had these worries. These same concerns were shared for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, which allowed the planners to learn how to prepare for the lack of a wintry environment in Sochi. The Olympic committee set up snowbanks in Sochi to preserve last year’s snow for this year’s games.
According to Popular Science, about 28 million cubic feet of natural and artificial snow was moved into massive piles and covered with reflective and thick blankets to reduce melting after the 2013 snowfall. If there is still not enough snow for the Olympic Games then workers will use 446 snow cannons to fire off snow from last year’s snowbank onto the ski runs.
The USGS pointed out that the ice hockey rink at Olympic Park needs between 12,000 and 15,000 gallons of water to create the surface. In comparison, the average person in the US uses just 54 to 190 gallons of water each day. Moreover, there are seven arenas that will need an ice surface for events like figure skating, short track speed skating, curling, speed skating, and ice dancing.
While climate change can be to blame for the lack of snow in Sochi this year, Russia and the International Olympic Committee are doing their best by ensuring that the games this year will be carbon neutral. The Sochi Games will achieve this through investing in renewable energy resources like geothermal energy, which comes from the natural heat of the interior of the Earth.
“Today, geothermal energy is primarily used for electricity generation. USGS studies geothermal and, in 2008, released an assessment estimating that more than nine gigawatts of electrical power could be generated from identified systems in 13 Western states alone,” the USGS said in a statement.
The Olympic Winter Games begin on Friday, February 7 and end on Sunday, February 23. This is the first time in Olympic history that the Winter Games are being held in a subtropical climate.
“The Olympic Games not only bring the world’s greatest athletes together on the international stage, but create economic opportunities for host nations, establish channels for foreign policy discussions, and facilitated learning experiences for the viewers,” the USGS said.
Image Below: Image showing the extent of the Greenland icecap and surrounding Arctic sea ice in September 2010. Credit: NASA