In articles penned by Olympians and published in the Boston Globe, The Salt Lake Tribune, USA Today, HuffPo and the Denver Post, the winter sport athletes write about the impact of climate change on their sport and report how warmer weather has impacted conditions where they compete and train.
Team Climate students, enrolled in Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and on site in Sochi, were featured last week in a Scientific America article "Team Climate” Gets Sochi Athletes All Abuzz about Climate Change.
The article mentions January's University of Waterloo report, which predicted that six of the 19 potential sites for Winter Olympics would no longer be suitable to host the games by 2080, even in "a low-emissions scenario."
The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media also published an article by Team Climate Members Taylor Rees (co-authored by Kristin Moe) Olympic Skiers’ Fear: The Beginning of the End for Snow Sports? which discusses how the athlete's love of nature is intrinsically connected to their love of the sport: increasingly limited areas to perform and practice coupled with the trucking in of artificial snow, they believe, threaten the future of winter sports.
Lack of snow has been a major concern for athletes in every winter sport. Recently, Yale’s “Team Climate” caught up with three members of the U.S. Nordic ski team to talk about their experiences adjusting to a warming world, and their fears about the future of skiing.Some excerpts from the articles published by Olympians:
Noah Hoffman, the top-ranked distance skier in the U.S., has been on the slopes of Loveland, Colorado, since he was two years old. He remembers a time when snow was a sure thing: “If there wasn’t snow by Thanksgiving, it was an odd year. Now, you’re always grateful when snow comes, because you’re never sure it will.”
Teammate Taylor Fletcher agrees. Just 23, he’s already noticed big changes since he’s begun competing internationally. “The conditions have been getting worse and worse,” he says. Venues, particularly for World Cup events, “don’t have the same amount of snow each year, and it’s been getting warmer.”
Warmer temperatures mean that these venues, both for training and competition, are relying increasingly on artificial snow — something that’s raising the costs of an already expensive sport.
"I am proud to have represented my country by taking the bronze medal this year at Sochi, but I’m worried that if we don’t band together to take action on a more meaningful scale, there might not be opportunities like this for athletes in the future. I’m worried that with climate change there might be a very different future ahead."
Bronz Metal winner Alex Deibold in a Boston Globe OpEd An Olympic moment for climate change fight
Just over the course of my own life, I have seen a serious change in our winters, which will only accelerate as carbon emissions continue to rise. Snowboarding is one of the newest Olympic sports, but it’s already in jeopardy from warming winters.
The science confirms what I and my fellow athletes have witnessed in the decade that I’ve been practicing this sport: The last ten years were the hottest on record, with winter temperatures rising two to four times faster than summer temperatures. I believe that if we fail to take immediate action on climate change, winter sports from skiing to pond hockey will be at risk of melting away.
Every year, winters in Utah and other areas across the U.S. are getting warmer and drier. The weather is not as reliable as it used to be; it’s either extremely cold or unseasonably warm. These conditions make it pretty challenging to reliably snowboard in Utah. There is also more variation in snowfall. Sometimes we get huge amounts; other times, we go months without seeing a storm cloud. One thing is as clear as a sunny winter sky: There have just been too many recent bad winters to write off as a weather glitch. Snowboard halfpipe Olympian Arielle Gold's piece in the Salt Lake Tribune:Op-ed: Climate change clouds the future of Winter Games
Now that the Sochi Games are here, I find myself worrying about something bigger than capturing the gold. Increasingly, what keeps me up at night is the future of my sport. I wonder whether or not the next generation of athletes will be able to pursue careers in snowboarding. Climate change is producing increasingly warm winters and weaker snowpacks, which has already taken a tremendous toll on our winter sports industry here in Colorado.
I've seen the impact of global warming firsthand over the course of my 25-year career. The snowfall in Colorado is less consistent than it used to be. When I was growing up, the winter storm cycle was healthy and brought consistent snowfall throughout the season. Now, there are lengthy gaps between snow-producing storms. Fortunately, when we do get snow, we get a lot; but overall, resorts are reporting snowfall numbers that point to a disappearing snowpack. Justin Reiter. The Denver Post. Snowboarder finds more to worry about than Olympics finish
Story of the Day
"Attribution studies can help us understand how humans are influencing the climate. Such studies have identified the 'fingerprints' of change due to human influence on climate in observed records of temperature, rainfall, and other climate parameters. Scientists can distinguish these fingerprints from the effects of natural factors, like changing solar output and natural climate fluctuations like the El Nino Southern Oscillation." Dr. Peter Stott, head of the Climate Monitoring and Attribution team at the UK Met Office.
Stott's fascinating article What climate change attribution can tell us about extreme weather - and the recent UK floods discusses how the 4% increase in atmospheric moisture since the 1970s is just one identified factor explaining intense rains and storms battering Great Britain this winter.
Attribution studies have shown that human-caused climate change has significantly increased the chances of the catastrophic temperatures seen in Europe in 2003, which brought many thousands of heat-related deaths.
Likewise, the record Australian temperatures of 2013, which brought devastating forest fires and the destruction of many homes, have become substantially more likely due to human influence on climate. Given this information, societies may wish to better protect vulnerable populations and ensure infrastructure is more resilient to a greater frequency of such extreme weather events in future.