Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Pre-Olympic Cold in Pyeongchang

It's currently just after midnight in Pyeongchang and data from the Korean Meteorological Agency (available at http://pc2018.kma.go.kr) shows a temperature of -18.4ºC (-1ºF) at the Pyeongchang Olympic Plaza and -20.9ºC (-6ºF) at the downhill start at the Jeongseon Alpine Center.  Brutally cold. 

Official training begins "today" (7 February KST) for some events (Biathalon, Luge, Ski Jumping) under what will be relatively cold conditions, but with temperatures above what I suspect are considered the minimum competition thresholds.  For example, the minimum temperature for holding an FIS World Cup Nordic event is -20ºC.  Forecast temperatures for the Biathalon center are -17ºC at 8 am, rising to -8ºC at noon. 

Training for the Men's Downhill starts "tomorrow" (8 February KST).  Temperatures, however, are expected to be warmer, but still crisp at -13ºC at 9AM and -10ºC at noon. 

The good news for opening ceremonies is that temperatures are expected to moderate over the next few days.  The situation at present [1500 UTC 6 February (0000 KST 7 Feb)] features a cold flow originating over interior Asia.  The 925-mb (about 750 m above sea level) temperature sits at about -16ºC, which explains the cold surface observations noted above. 

Over the next few days, temperatures warm gradually and by 1200 UTC 9 February (2100 KST 9 February), roughly an hour after the start of opening ceremonies, the 925-mb temperature sits at a far more tolerable -2ºC. 

The one issue in that forecast might be the westerly flow.  Currently, however, the Korean Meteorological Agency forecast is calling for light southwest winds (1 m/s equates to 2 knots). 

The opening and closing ceremonies sometimes feature displays or activities that are very weather sensitive.  Closing ceremonies for the Salt Lake City Games featured, for example, hot air balloons. 

Source: http://olympicgamesblog.blogspot.com/2005_04_01_archive.html
Thus, the wind forecast can be all important for the opening and closing ceremonies.  For the Salt Lake closing ceremonies, a cold front with strong post-frontal winds was bearing down on Salt Lake and was the cause of a great deal of forecaster heartburn.  Frontal passage and the strong winds held off, however, to just after the end of closing ceremonies, to the great relief of forecasters.  

I suspect the Pyeongchang forecast team will be keeping a close eye on the winds (as well as other weather parameters) as the opening ceremonies approach.  

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