Just how cold is at at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang?

From NASA Earth Observatory

Media reports have described the many ways that cold temperatures have affected the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Razor-sharp, icy snow crystals have damaged skis, and some concert goers suffered from hypothermia prior to the opening ceremony. The region is known to be cold and dry; temperatures in February in Pyeongchang average -5.5 degrees Celsius (22.1 degrees Fahrenheit). But NASA data show that the temperatures in the first days of the winter games have been colder than usual.

The temperature anomaly map above is based on data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. It shows land surface temperatures (LSTs) from January 29 to February 5, 2018, compared to the 2010–2018 average for the same eight-day period. Red colors depict areas that were hotter than average; blues were colder than average; and white pixels were normal. (To learn more about LSTs and air temperatures, read: Where is the Hottest Place on Earth?)

The map shows that colder-than-average temperatures prevailed across most of the Korean Peninsula. The line chart shows how land surface temperatures in the city changed over the course of a year. Early February 2018 is clearly colder than the same time in 2017.

Cold is not the only factor affecting the games. Wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour have ripped through the region and caused some of the skiing events to be delayed or postponed. The natural-color image below was acquired on February 13, 2017, by MODIS on the Aqua satellite. Clouds over land appear to moving in the same direction as the winds, which frequently blow from Siberia toward the southeast.

Snow is also visible in Pyeongchang, located amid the Taebaek Mountains, the site of the skiing and snowboarding events, as well as the opening ceremonies. There is visibly less snow on the coastal plain near Gangneung, the site of Olympic ice events. See a detailed view of these two regions here.

Scientists in NASA’s Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center (SPoRT) have been tracking temperature, winds, and snowfall in Pyeongchang. Their aim is to use observations and models to improve short-term, regional forecasts. You can read more about their work as it pertains to Pyeongchang on their blog and browse the output of their real-time weather model here.

The modeling research is part of a larger effort by Earth science researchers who are conducting experiments and making observations during the games. The International Collaborative Experiments for Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (ICE-POP 2018) is a scientific field campaign taking place in Korea in February and March to study mountain-induced snowfall and other weather phenomena in the region. Read about their efforts on Earth Observatory’s ICE-POP blog, written by the scientists currently in the field.

References and Further Reading

NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using data from the Level 1 and Atmospheres Active Distribution System (LAADS) and LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. Story by Kathryn Hansen.

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100 thoughts on “Just how cold is at at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang?

  1. I look forward to future winter olympics happening nearer home in places like Wales or Corsica because global warming is clearly leading to much snowier winters in the northern hemisphere, and it’s only going to get worse as CO2 levels become catastrophic. Children just won’t know what mild winters are.
    Err, hang on a minute…

    • Climate scientists have long predicted that global warming, at least at first, would lead to snowier winters in the middle latitudes in many places. This is because with a warmer atmosphere generally, there is more moisture in the air. When warm moist air moves to a region where it is still cold enough to snow, you get lots of snow.

      • “Climate scientists have long predicted that global warming, at least at first, would lead to snowier winters in the middle latitudes in many places.”
        Oh, really? In 2000 a Met Office scientist named David Viner famously wrote in the Guardian that, because of global warming, snow was becoming a thing of the past and that children would only see snow in films. About ten years later Britain had one of its coldest winters and probably the coldest December on record. Oh yes, and there was rather a lot of snow. Britain has also had quite a lot of snow through this winter.

        Yes, it is possible that warmer air will carry more moisture, leading to more precipitation – though I believe the global data shows no increase in rainfall.
        But the whole point of global warming is that the world gets warmer. So, even if there is more precipitation, it will fall as rain and not as snow.
        Chris

      • In the vast pool of predictions it seems inevitable that some will turn out to be correct. The difficult part is knowing in advance which ones.

      • The day will come when snow is a thing of the past — yes. But we aren’t there yet. It is still cold enough that the extra moisture in the air will, in some places, produce heavier snow falls than in the past. This is what the scientists have predicted — and it wasn’t a lucky guess.

      • no, scientists never said “The day will come when snow is a thing of the past”. That was said by hucksters shilling their fantastical religion of Man Caused Globall Warmining. Scientists say the climate changes constantly, humans are not causing it to change and can not stop it from changing. Oh, and The Sun. Ya know? Big flaming ball in the sky? (and before any of my fellow grammar nazis jump salty, I am having some odd keyboard issues using shift key, can’t capitalize certain letters or use some punctuation. very annoying)

      • “This prediction was based on science.”

        Yeah, right.

        “It was not a blind guess.”

        Of course it was.

      • Oh, and while we’re on with wild-assed guesses scientific predictions Jesse, here’s another one for you:

        Why Antarctica will soon be the only place to live – literally

        Antarctica is likely to be the world’s only habitable continent by the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked, the Government’s chief scientist, Professor Sir David King, said last week.

        http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/why-antarctica-will-soon-be-the-only-place-to-live-literally-58574.html

        I bet you believe that too, right?

      • Rather than you tell me what the climate scientists are saying, why don’t you let the climate scientists tell you what they are saying? There are plenty of good books out there. I would recommend “What We Know About Climate Change,” by Prof. Kerry Emmanuel of MIT, to start with with — because it is both clear and short. And take it from there. The good thing is, climate science is actually pretty interesting.

    • @Fell – many of the people who post here are scientists. Some of them may have written the books you are referring here. Most of them will say that the globe is warming up. Choose your words carefully. I am not a scientist and I don’t think you are one either. You are, in fact, coming on like a troll. Every single point you have made has been agreed with or contradicted by scientists on the side you espouse. Somehow nothing they have predicted has come true. They are arrogant fools misusing the scientific method for a political agenda.

      • I am not a scientist — just a reader of books by scientists. And to the extent of my ability to judge, they are on the whole honorable people, motivated first of all by curiosity about how things work, and, in many cases, by a desire to alert people to the dangers that their researches have led them to see lying ahead for us.

        I do not agree that their predictions have never come true. By and large, they have. Where they have not come true, it has generally been a question of when things come true, not what is going to happen.

        And I do not have to be a scientist to realize that if the boreal forests of Alaska are being decimated by warm weather pests — as they are — then conditions in Alaska are warmer than in any time since the trees in these forests evolved into their present state. That would be a very long time.

        And when indigenous peoples in the Andes are being forced off the mountain tops, because the conditions have become too dry to support their centuries old way of life, I can see that climate there is changing from what it has been for, again, a very long time.

        I am not sure what the definition of a troll is. If I am one, however, I try to be an honorable one, writing as I hope a well-informed citizen and writing nothing that I do not believe or have evidence to believe is true, to the best of my understanding.

  2. Well who would have thunk it – global warming leading to intense cold damaging winter equipment at the Olympics and causing sea levels to hoist Pacific islands out of the ocean. Anyone researching brain damage wrought by hot/ err cold/ temperatures should get a ton of grants.

  3. Excuse me, but 22 degrees Fahrenheit is not particularly cold. Nippy, yes, but nothing compared to -15 F when you have to walk over to the bus stop about a mile away from your house.
    If anyone over there is getting cold, the proper thing to do is move a lot, not stand or sit in one place. At least learn how to dress for cold weather, drink hot fluids, and wear insulated, waterproof footwear. That’s just simple common sense. I don’t even set the taps on drip unless the temperature outside is at 20F.
    22F cold? Wimps!

    • Agreed Sara. That may be cold for the region, but not cold for my neighborhood. It regularly gets FAR colder than that here, and Skiing is really a big thing here, and I have never even heard of the cold temps ruining skis. Maybe they are using the wrong type of skis? Those big wide ones are made for water you know…
      Still waiting for that global warming to arrive, maybe it will get here around July or so….

      • These are special skis that have been specially made for competitive sports. No-one should think he could win a downhill or a slalom today with his 20-year-old skis. The material is so light that it is ready to fly. Half of all medals are won today with the material, with the small differences between the athletes this is crucial.

      • This ex ski bum is puzzled by the snow crystals damaging skis as well. -7C is not even particularly cold.
        I think Fritz is right, Some one, probably an ignorant reporter has got it into his/her head about some comment somewhat misheard.
        Actually there is more likely to be damage to skis if the snow has been warm and then frozen again.(-1C would do). In the business, this is called frozen slush. Not really snow at all. But apart from taking the wax off more quickly, I never heard of a ski being actually damaged by frozen slush unless the skier runs into a vertical ridge of frozen slush.

    • I believe the 22 degrees is a daily average, so morning lows are likely to be quite a bit colder. However it appears to be warming up. High today expected to be 41, low 19, per Weather Underground

      • And along with other reality-based observations made in these replies – – – a high of 41 and low of 19??? In MN, ND, MT and other areas of the states, that is NOT considered respectable winter weather. That’s considered a January thaw, no matter when it happens.

    • I’m with Sara on this one. Pyeongchang temperatures are definitely nippy, but it’s difficult to believe ski equipment is being damaged with temperatures that are above 0F. What are they making skis out of these days – cheese?

      When I lived in Burlington, VT, and the lake froze over in February, it was not unusual for the temperature to stay below 0F for days on end. Didn’t seem to bother the ski equipment.

    • Whilst in absolute terms, the temperatures are not that cold, when you are watching you are usually standing still or sitting still, and maybe for hours on end, so I guess that the body succumbs to the cold sooner than if one were doing some activity such as walking.

      The wind is also playing a big part, since there is significant windchill factor, and without knowing the humidity, one does not know how biting the cold feels..

      • On the other hand, the stands are packed full of people, both protecting you from the wind and giving off body heat.

    • Indeed! Here in central Virginia (a southern state), several days this winter have never reached 22 D F. Our coldest thus far in 2018 was -6 in early January, and our coldest day so far averaged 7.5 degrees F. If it had gotten up to 22 that day, I’d have brought out my golf clubs . . . We also used to live in Superior, WI, where whole months went by without getting anywhere near 22 D F. At University of Wisconsin-Superior, we had winter-sports teams, from cross-country skiing to curling and ice hockey; my students performed in far colder regimes than in these Olympics.

    • 44 F is too cold for me, let alone 22 F or -15 F. I once was outside in a snowstorm at -18 F in Montana. The key word there is once.

    • Hello Sara,

      Overall it has not been very cold since the start of the games, we have had some days of maximum temperatures even >0ºC, but I am here and I can tell you that we had also a day of -22ºC with feeling of -39ºC just a couple of weeks before, and maaaaany many days of less than -15ºC feeling less than -25ºC in the mornings. You can do the conversion to Fahrenheit.

  4. The North Koreans are not contributing their fair share of atmospheric CO2 to keep us all warm.

  5. Contrast that to the Olympics of 1968 at Grenoble France when they had to run Bob sledding at night because track had melt water on it during the day. Or back in 1932 at Lake Placid when the lack of snow forced them to truck in some. Or 1980 at Lake Placid again where they authorized the use of snow making machines for the first time in Olympic history due to a lack of natural snow. But back then it was just weather.

    • I wonder if the IOC chose Pyeongchang because they wanted to guarantee cold weather and are now regretting what they wished for.

  6. “when you have to walk over to the bus stop about a mile away from your house.”
    And uphill both ways no doubt!

    Growing up in New England, there were times when we played pond hockey at less than 22F, eventually getting down to just a shirt to prevent too much sweating.

  7. It is probably no surprise to readers here on WUWT that the entire northern hemisphere has been much cooler than average, probably because of La Niña. In my travels around the world this winter, I have met many people from Europe, northern Asia and northern North America and all say it has just been an all out crappy cold, snowy winter. I bet the 2018 ‘global average’ is not going to be anything near the highs of the last 3-4 years. Welcome to the start of a moderately declining ‘earthly’ tempature. No trend lasts forever. We just had a 30-40 year secular warming phase, and let’s just hope humanity has introduced a smidgion of global warming so as to have an ‘insurance policy’ against any catastrophic global cooling.

    • Hmmm, the entire NH? The simplest explanation for cold at mid latitudes is that more air than usual has come from the polar region, and since nature abhors a vacuum the polar region has probably got more than its usual amount of “warm” air. Will be happy to be shot down in flames though.

    • “No trend lasts forever.”

      Don’t tell that to the Climate Change Elite. They think a trend continues in the same direction forever.

      Back in the 1960’s and1970’s when it kept getting colder and colder, the Climate Change Elite thought the cold trend was going to continue forever.

      Then the weather changed and started warming and warmed for a couple of decades so the Climate Change Elite think this warming trend will continue forever. They were wrong about the cooling trend continuing forever. . .

      And no matter which way the trend goes, the Climate Change Elite blame human beings for it.

      • I was informed recently that the only rational thing to do when you are a government official making plans, is to assume that any current trend will continue forever.

    • Earthling2,

      Don’t worry, they will adjust it up to make it the xth warmest year evah !
      It will be attributed to some warming far away where none of the citizens can verify it.

    • Wait a minute… where I am there has definitely not been a cold winter this season. So far it has been moderate and absolutely nothing to complain about. There has been a bit much “strong” wind. End of November brought much rain and first snow and the only thing quite unusual was that we did get quite a bit of snow to stay all through December. Then at the beginning of January it warmed up as usual, it stayed very warm for all of January ’18, and we had a lot of rain… which comes down as snow in in the alps I guess. February usually is freezing, it wasn’t so far but for the last 4 days where it didn’t quite go below -8°C (and warmed up during the day to 4°C). And there was no wind, so not bad. We often have Fabruarys all frozen from start to end, often with wind and right around -10 to -15°C. But not this year.
      Now it’s warm again -and a bit of rain. (7°C)

    • Also cool in parts of the Southern Hemisphere. Perth on Australia’s west cost is experiencing its second mild cool summer, with very few really hot days. Lots of cool air sweeping up from the Southern Ocean producing pleasant balmy summer days. More global cooling please!

      • According to NASA/GISS, “Seventeen of the 18 warmest years in the 136-year record all have occurred since 2001, with the exception of 1998. The year 2016 ranks as the warmest on record.” According to NOAA, the last year with an average temperature cooler than the average for the century was 1976.

        These readings are confirmed by what we can see, such as the continuing shrinkage of glaciers world wide and the reduction in the amount of arctic sea ice.

      • Repeating lies told by other people further reinforces that Man Caused Globall Warmining is nothing more than a fantastical religion, which is being used to convey leftist political ideology. Oh, and hate to go all bubble bursting and what not but the Arctic Sea is covered in ICE, convenient satellite image available here https://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/ and will be for the foreseeable. Same for the sea region around Antarctica. Oh, and glaciers in same regions are shrinking and in others growing, just like glaciers ALWAYS do.

      • Did you read any of the text at the link in your reply to me? Here’s one sentence:

        “The new year was heralded by a week of record low daily ice extents, with the January average beating out 2017 for a new record low.”

        And, how do you know that scientific findings that you don’t like are lies? What is your touchstone in these matters?

      • Did you look at the IMAGE? Apparently not, you are all hung up on advancing the Man Caused Globall Warmining agenda, just like the “scientist” who wrote that. Fact is represented by the actual extent of ice coverage, not the endless chanting of the “Earth is dying, Earth is dying” gospel. I live out here in the real world, I witness reality with my senses every single day and that reality puts the lie to the whole humans killing the climate hoax. But hey! This is America and you are free to believe any fantastical crap you want. Some people in America believe the color of their skin is the only thing that makes their lives matter, thats even crazier than the Man Caused Globall Warmining mythology.

      • Just because you “read” lies does not make them true, it just makes you gullible. Ever hear the name Goebbels? “Tell a lie long enough and people will believe it.” It appears you have been lied to long enough. Sad.

      • But I do look at pictures and there are lots of them — of the arctic ice cover shrinking over time and of glaciers retreating. Or do you think that all of these pictures are Photoshopped?

        I can also mention Prof. Lonnie Thompson, of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University, who takes ice cores from high altitude glaciers in the Andes. He sections the ice cores and analyzes the composition of the air in each section to determine, among other things, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere are the different times in the past when each section was laid down as snow. But he analyzes only half the ice cores that he extracts. The other half he stores in a large refrigerated Quonset hut (that’s what it looks like) on the Ohio State University campus — for the use of the next generation of climate scientists, who will have no more Andean glaciers to harvest.

        Thompson says that Peru has had to shut down several of its hydroelectric plants in recent years because of decreasing runoff from the seasonal melting of the Andean glaciers. The glaciers are not regaining bulk in the winters making less glacier to melt in the summer.

        But Prof. Thomson is just one of hundreds of scientists who have visited glaciers in recent years and witnessed and photographed their shrinking. This is what is sad.

      • Bang that drum and keep chanting “humans are evil”. Perhaps add a hair shirt to your ensemble to enhance the effect.

  8. I keep asking the same question. Where is the heat? The globe is supposedly anomalously warm so some places must be crazy hot because other than the Arctic, everywhere I look on the planet is colder than normal.
    So, once again. Where is the heat? Surely some Warmist can tellm e!

    • “I keep asking the same question. Where is the heat?”

      Mostly in the arctic. If you can call that “heat.”

      • I think this year is is over the left coast of north america, the great “hot spot” of the earth. Unlike the great red spot of jupiter, we cannot see it. next year it will orbit over some other part of the earth.

        Some may call it a blocking high pressure area.

        ironbrian

    • The average surface temperature of the globe is rising. Some places are still cold — some even colder than normal — but it’s the overall average that scientists use to track the change in global temperature.

      It’s also the case that much more of the heat that we receive from the sun ends up in the ocean than in the atmosphere, although the share of the heat that each contains varies from time to time.

      • My grounds are reality, sweety. I live out here in the REAL WORLD. I see the lie that your Man Caused Globall Warmining religion spews every single day. Keep banging that drum! Keep telling yourself those lies, you might even convince yourself.

        (You need to do better than just castigate Jessie over and over, it is boring, damaging to debate) MOD

  9. Oh brother. This is not cold weather. Speaking as a Canadian, you take the trash out in your housecoat at -30, but at -7, your pyjamas are more than enough. At Christmas we were skiing at -25. Man up you Olympic sissies.

  10. -7.13°C=19.17°F Not extreme cold for skiing, and certainly shouldn’t cause snow to stick as reported in an earlier post.

  11. This ain’t cold. In Nov 1950 the U.S. vs China Korean Olympics at Chosin Resevoir were much colder (and hotter). In fact we stacked dead bodies and let them freeze into the best bullet barriers ever. Now THAT was a cold winter.

    • Exactly, Brad.

      I’ve been thinking about Chosin for the last week as the whining has built up to headline proportions. I wonder how many of the media are even aware of Chosin?

      In addition, this would be an ideal time to explain to our NK-admiring media that the cold temps they are suffering through are being endured in the prison camps of North Korea not only during the Olympics – but also next week, last week, week after next, month before last……the unfortunates there are working and living in these conditions without proper clothing, food, or shelter. Maybe the media can send them their down jackets when the chilly olympics are over.

      Occasionally I see a vet wearing a cap that just says “CHOSIN” – anyone who was there and is still living is a walking memorial to ALL who were there. And I’m guessing most of our 30-something media “experts” are completely ignorant about Chosin, the lives and deaths of those who were there.

      • “In addition, this would be an ideal time to explain to our NK-admiring media”

        The Leftwing News Media does not admire North Korea, they are afraid of them, and this is how they act around murderous dictators, by taking the dictator’s side of the argument.

        The Left is not psychologically equipped to deal with murderous dictators, since they are unwilling to confront such a person. So what they do is pretend that the murderous dictator is just a normal person like everyone else, who can be reasoned with, if we just take the right approach.

        So they fawn over the dictators and attack any American president who takes steps to confront the dictator.

        Fear of murderous dictators rules the Left. So they compensate for not confronting the dictator by pretending there are no murderous dictators, just misunderstood, probably reasonable (if we’re nice to them), dictators. And the mean ole US presidents who are confronting them are just stirring up trouble.

        The Leftwing News Media and the Left fawned all over the North Vietnamese and their dictator. Jane Fonda comes to mind.

        This fear of murderous dictators also applies when it comes to confronting Islamic terrorists, too. That’s why you never hear any criticism of these murderers from the appeasers on the Left.

    • “In Nov 1950 the U.S. vs China Korean Olympics at Chosin Resevoir were much colder (and hotter). In fact we stacked dead bodies and let them freeze into the best bullet barriers ever.”

      Yeah, the U.S. Marines said as long as they had ammunition for their Quad-50’s, they mowed the Chinese humanwave attacks down like wheat and repulsed them.

      Chosin was a tough fight.

      • “The Marines of Autumn” by James Brady. Fictional account of the Chosin battle, but depicts the situation fairly well. My Dad was in Korea that winter. He said after that, that he would never be cold again.

        Yes, that James Brady.

        A son who remembers.

  12. When I was old enough to take an interest in these things, Suez Crisis onwards, my lasting impression of the Korean War is pictures of soldiers wrapped up in warm clothing in snowy battlefields. I was a bit surprised at how little snow there was away from the ski slopes in the pre-olympic coverage

    • I have it on good account that the clothing was not really that warm. Korea happened before the US military learned how to fight the cold.

      One of Dad’s favorite expressions was “He’s dumb enough to piss in his boots to keep his feet warm” It was apparently tried by more than a few. It’s also instructive about the merits of instant gratification. If you think on it.

  13. Minus 7 degrees C is about 19 degrees F. Come on! This is the Winter Olympics! It has been below zero F (minus 17 C) here in MA many times this winter. Sure the wind chill makes it uncomfortable, but come on!

  14. That Korea can bevdreadfully cold in the winter should have come as no surprise to anyone with a since of history. In the Korean War during winter, our troops on the front lines commonly were trained to not release themselves fully thereby always retaining enough warm urine to whiz on their rifle and thaw it out in case of a frontal human wave charge. Fact.

  15. Isn’t weather great stuff..
    Twas about 20 years ago found mysel heading to Warwick Castle to see the 2nd of 3 concerts they were running over a long weekend.
    To see Van Morrison as it happens – blink and you miss him and one case where being chronically depressed and ‘caring’ actually does ‘get you the girls’ :-/
    Don’t work for the rest us as the plummeting birth-rate testifies.

    Anyway, checks into the hotel wearing ‘summer clothes’, not unreasonable as Warwick is supposedly the centre of England and it was late July.
    Receptionist just about busts-her-gut when she learns we were headed for the castle (2 miles away from the hotel) as there been some sort of ice storm descended on the previous night’s gig.
    Black clouds (sans the downwelling LWIR – probably got stuck in a traffic jam on the way there), rain, hail, lightning and some sort of minor tornado went through the place.
    A Total Emergency seemingly erupted, shiny blankets, helicopters, stretchers and hospitalisations with, get this, Hypothermia. At the peak of the English summer.

    (Have they ever had a Winter Olympic in the UK)

  16. The latitude is what I find amazing. The USA would never have a Winter Games in the mountains west of Richmond, VA.

    Just sayin’…

    • Wolf Creek Ski area in Colorado is the same latitude as Pyeongchang, and a 60″ base. Snowshoe in WV is about the same, and has a 34″ base

  17. To add to every ones comment about the ‘lack’ of cold, notice on the visible satellite images; 1) ice-free ocean all around the Korean Peninsula, 2) no ‘ocean streamer’ clouds over that ocean which happens so often in the US when truly cold air blows from the frozen Canadian land to the warmer Great Lakes (lake effect snows) and out over the Atlantic Ocean off the US North east coast so…the air can’t be that cold.

  18. Just what exactly are these ”cold” temperatures (and ”warm” temperatures and ”hot” temperatures?). Are they animal, vegetable or mineral?

  19. I’m sure that I’ve already heard several times that all this cold weather is caused by Global Warming and Climate Change. I’m still waiting for the detailed explanation.

  20. It must be really cold over there; the brass monkeys have all been moved indoors and some Canadians are wearing jackets.

  21. It amazes me that people are shocked at how cold the Korean Peninsula can be. Apparently no one remembers Chosen Reservoir or the long retreat from the Yalu River.

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