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Front Nearby For Several Days.... "Earth Gauge": Little Snow for Olympics, Wet in Tibet(!)

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Updated: 2/21 10:41 pm
The front that rolled through the First Coast with heavy rain & storms Fri. will hang out near the area through the weekend right on into next week.  Strong upper level winds out of the west/southwest (from the Gulf) will keep upper level moisture over the area as well as a series of upper level disturbance that will move from west to east.  This combination will support plenty of clouds with increasing rainfall.  Most of the rain should be Sun. afternoon then on-&-off Mon. through Wed.  A push of colder air late in the week will finally dry it out.

Earth Gauge: Winter Olympics Snow Woes?

NASA Image: Sochi Olympic Skiing and Snowboarding Sites

It goes without saying that snow is an important ingredient for the Winter Olympics. So what happens when warm weather impacts the quality and quantity of snow? Sustained above-freezing temperatures create slushy snow that can impact winter sports in myriad ways – slowing down alpine skiers and halfpipe riders, making tricks more difficult, and creating dangerous conditions for ski jumpers and cross country skiers.

According to NOAA, Sochi is among the warmest cities to have hosted the Winter Olympics. Snowmaking machines that work in above-freezing temperatures, stockpiled snow, and rock salt are being used to help mitigate the melting, but what’s an Olympian to do? Skiers are turning to an important tool in their Olympic arsenal: wax. The right ski wax makes all the difference. Using more fluorocarbon wax, which repels water and dirt like Teflon, can help Olympic athletes go for the gold – even in less-than-ideal conditions. Learn more.

(Sources: NOAA. “Sochi Among the Warmest Winter Olympics Host Cities.”; Krasnaya Polyana, Associated Press. “How Warm Weather Affects Winter Olympics’ Sports,” February 11, 2014; Eric Niller, Discovery News. “Slow, Slush Snow Makes Ski Wax Vital at Olympics.” February 14, 2014; Mark McClusky. “Ski techs Turn Fluorocarbon to Gold.” February 14, 2010.)

Climate Fact: Changes in Russia’s Snow Cover

NASA Image: Olympic Snow

Russia – host of the 2014 Winter Olympics – is the world’s largest country, spanning over six million square miles and 11 time zones. Due to its large size and because most of the land is over 200 miles from sea, Russia’s climate is mostly continental, meaning that it has large seasonal temperature contrasts with hot summers and cold winters. The wide variety of environmental conditions in Russia affects spatial snow distribution. Maximum snow accumulation ranges from 8-12 inches in European Russia to 39-47 inches over Eastern Siberia, Kamchatka and Sakhalin. The longest period of snow cover is recorded on the coast of the Northern Seas (more than 250 days), while the shortest is recorded on the coast of the Caspian Sea (less than 20 days).

Sochi is among the warmest cities to have hosted the Winter Olympics, and warm weather has impacted the quality and quantity of snow this year.  But how have Russia’s snow cover trends changed over time?

  • Snow cover extent over Russia decreased from 1965 to 1990, but this decreasing trend ceased over the last two decades.
  • Snow cover periods are shorter. The climatic record of the past 40 years indicates that the first snowfall occurs later and snowmelt occurs earlier over most of Russia.
  • Even with a reduction in snow cover extent and duration, snow depth and snow water equivalent (amount of water in snow) have increased over the last 45 years. Snow depth has increased up to three inches per decade for some regions such as Western Siberia. The number of days per year with snow depth above 7 inches has also increased. Snow water equivalent has increased up to 3.4 percent for areas such as eastern Siberia, and up to six percent per decade in the southern forest zone of west Siberia. This is contrary to what is occurring in Canada and Alaska, where these snow characteristics have shown decreases.
  • Permafrost – permanently frozen soil in the high latitudes – is thawing in the southern boundary of the permafrost zone in northern European Russia and West Siberia. More than half of Russia falls within permafrost zones and most permafrost observatories in Russia show substantial warming of permafrost over the last 20 to 30 years.

(Sources: Bulygina, O.N., P.Y. Groisman, V.N. Razuvaev, N.N. Korshunova. 2011. Changes in Snow Cover Characteristics Over Northern Eurasia Since 1966. Environmental Research Letters 6 045204. Accessed online 12 February 2014. and Bulygina, O.N., V.N. Razuvaev, N.N. Korshunova. 2009. Changes in snow cover over Northern Eurasia in the last few decades. Environmental Research Letters 4 045026. Accessed online 12 February 2014. and Romanovsky, V.E., D.S. Drozdov, N.G. Oberman, G.V. Malkova, A.L. Kholodov, S.S. Marchenko, N.G. Moskalenko, D.O. Sergeev, N.G. Ukraintseva, A.A. Abramov, D.A. Gilichinsky, A.A. Varsilev. 2010. Thermal State of Permafrost in Russia. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 21:136-155. and Library of Congress. Russia: Climate. Accessed online 12 February 2014.)

Climate in the News: “Recent decades likely wettest in four millennia in Tibet” Science Daily, February 11, 2014 —  Researchers looked at 3,500-year-long tree ring records from North East Tibet to estimate annual precipitation. They found that recent decades have likely been the wettest on record in this semi-arid region.

Have a great & safe weekend!

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