Vancouver Winter Games
Athletes shooting a hockey puck, sweeping at a curling rock, or competing in any other sport indoors at an Olympic or Paralympic venue can count on competing in a controlled environment. The temperature, humidity and ice-quality are monitored, ensuring fairness and safety for every competitor.
When it comes to outdoor events at the 2010 Winter Games, there’s no such weather and environmental control. With its tall mountains, deep valleys and proximity to the Pacific Ocean, forecasting the weather is challenging in southwestern British Columbia. As the official weather service provider for Vancouver 2010, Environment Canada, Canada’sNational Meteorological and Hydrological Service, is taking on the challenge.
It’s a crucial but somewhat unsung role — a change in weather can make the difference between a place on the podium and a place on the sidelines, and between a safe experience for spectators and an unsafe one. Games officials want to know that weather conditions will be similar for all the skiers in each race. As a result, adjusting for the weather is a key part of competition preparation.
Experts and scientists with Environment Canada’s Meteorological and Hydrological Service and its Science and Technology Branch have been preparing to meet this challenge since Vancouver was awarded the 2010 Games in 2003. New equipment, including a Doppler radar and wind profiler, have been installed throughout the Games region, particularly in what’s known as the “sea-to-sky” corridor between Whistler and Vancouver. During the Games, meteorologists are at each Outdoor venue, providing weather information at the finest scale to officials at that competition site.
Along with their usual tools, meteorologists also have new research at their disposal. George Isaac is a Senior Scientist with the Cloud Physics and Severe Weather Research section of Environment Canada’s Science and Technology Branch. He is among a number of scientists working on an international research project launched by the World Meteorological Organization called the “Science of Nowcasting Weather for Vancouver 2010”, otherwise known as SNOW V10.
The project is exploring new territory in alpine forecasting, particularly in the innovative branch of science known as nowcasting — forecasting weather at short spatial scales and short time scales usually over a 0 to 6 hour time frame.
Nowcasting was used successfully at both the summer Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 and Beijing in 2008, but has never been attempted in winter alpine conditions until the 2010 Winter Games.
“The Whistler area is very interesting because it is often raining at the mountain base and snowing at the top. We have stations up and down the mountain so we can go see exactly what is going on in a cloud, and where the zero degree line is,” explains Isaac.
Thanks to advances in technology and the research of SNOW V10, meteorologists at the outdoor sites have access to updated weather data literally every minute.
Like the Winter Games themselves, the SNOW V10 project is attracting international attention and participation. Collaborators on Snow-V10 include officials from Australia, Austria, China, Finland, Germany, and Switzerland.
“This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity,” notes Isaac. “In that sense, we’re a bit like the athletes — we’re motivated, that’s for sure.”
For more information, please contact:
Environment Canada Media Relations, Tel. +1 819 934 8008. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Communications and Public Affairs
World Meteorological Organization
Tel: + 41 22 730 8417