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Vancouver 2010 - - Weather and Climate May Impact Games

4 PM ET, January 29, 2010

WeatherBug Sr. Meteorologist, James Aman

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This year`s Winter Olympics host city will be full of contrasting weather with more rain than snow for the host city.

The 2010 Winter Olympics are scheduled for February 12th to 28th in the Canadian province of British Columbia. This area is in Western Canada about 150 miles north of Seattle. All of the skating events will be at indoor arenas around the city of Vancouver. The outdoor events will be held at two different locations in the Coast Mountains north of Vancouver.

The city of Vancouver is located right at sea-level, very near the Pacific Ocean. Winds from the ocean mean that the city has a relatively mild winter climate. For those attending the events in Vancouver, like hockey and skating, it may not seem much like winter at all.

The weather in Vancouver is much like its U.S. southern neighbor Seattle, with more clouds than sunshine. Climate data from Environment Canada, Canada`s government weather service, shows February in Vancouver generally features fairly mild temperatures with a number of rainy days.

On average, during the second half of February, there will be nine days with rain in Vancouver, and just one day with snow. The average snowfall during late February is only two inches. The average high is 47 degrees and the average low is 35. Normally during the latter half of February, four days will have high temperatures above 50 degrees, and only four days will have lows below freezing.

With the mild and damp air in Vancouver, special considerations are needed to create ideal ice conditions, not only in the speed skating venue, but at other ice venues too. All of the major ice venues in Vancouver have special indoor air controls to keep the air temperature from getting too warm in the arenas. More importantly, special de-humidifiers will keep the air dry inside the arenas, to prevent frost and condensation, which could soften the ice and affect competition.

In contrast to the mild conditions at Vancouver, the outdoor events like skiing, bob-sledding and the luge will take place in the nearby mountains. The majority of the outdoor events will be about 80 miles north of Vancouver in Whistler, North America`s largest ski area. At Whistler, the bottom of the ski area is more than 2,100 feet above sea level, and the tops of the mountains hit elevations in excess of 7,000 feet. During a normal winter, more than 400 inches snow will fall -- that`s about 33 feet of snow! Average temperatures for February at Whistler range from 23 to 37 degrees.

Meanwhile, the freestyle skiing and snowboarding will be held at the Cypress Bowl Ski Area, a 30 mile northwest of Vancouver. Elevations here range from 3,000 feet at the base, to around 4,500 feet at the summit. Average snowfall during the winter at Cypress is 244 inches (just greater than 20 feet of snow). Environment Canada records show that during El Nino years, there will be warmer-than-normal temperatures at the Cypress ski area during the winter, which can allow for some storms to bring rain instead of snow to the Cypress ski area, resulting in less snow-pack.

Unfortunately, a moderate El Nino pattern is already in place heading toward the 2010 Olympics, so this could be a problem for the 2010 Winter Olympics. As you watch the free-style skiing and snow-boarding when the games are on TV, listen to what is said about the snow-pack, and remember how the climate and weather patterns like El Nino can have a major influence on these Olympic events.

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