Organizers of winter games prepare for harsh cold at open-air PyeongChang Olympic Stadium
By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
February 05, 2018, 8:29:48 AM EST
The 2018 Winter Olympics will officially begin on Feb. 9 in PyeongChang, South Korea, and this year’s winter games are expected to feature frigid air that could endanger spectators at outdoor venues.
The bone-chilling cold of the Taebaek Mountains, where many of the contests will be held, has been a source of contention and worry for Olympic organizers in the lead-up to the competitions.
PyeongChang Olympic Stadium is an open-air facility that was built without a roof to save time and money, although organizers had requested a roof, Reuters reported. In November, six people reportedly suffered from hypothermia while attending a concert at the stadium.
To help address the issue, officials in South Korea have arranged to provide each spectator at the opening ceremonies with a small blanket, rain coats and heating pads. A crowd of 35,000 is anticipated for the opening ceremony.
The stadium, the games’ primary venue which will host the opening and closing ceremonies, is also being equipped with wind shields to help keep athletes and spectators warm. The polycarbonate fence is 3.5 meters high (11.5 feet) and 510 meters (1,673 feet) long.
A cold and dry airflow is considered the most dominant weather pattern during February in PyeonChang.
According to data compiled by the PyeonChang Organizing Committee, February temperatures over the past decade averaged minus 4.5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit).
The athletic venues are sprawled across several locations in the northeastern part of the country: the mountainous PyeongChang, the coastal town of Gangneung and the town of Jeongseon, about 40 minutes east of PyeongChang.
PyeongChang and Jeongseon are home to the cluster of venues that will feature the mountain sports such as skiing, while the facilities in Gangneung will house indoor sports such as hockey, ice skating, speed skating and curling.
2018 Winter Olympics site, PyeongChang, South Korea, is the Earth's coldest location based on its latitude
Winter Olympics athletes travel thousands of miles for new training spots due to melting glaciers
VIDEO: Winter games: Why the cold climate may hurt your lungs when you breathe
How artificial snow is made
AccuWeather Meteorologist SungHyun Do said that while PyeongChang and Gangneung are located at similar latitudes, the weather will be different since the altitude for both cities varies. PyeongChang’s altitude can range from 500 meters (1,640 feet) to around 900 meters (2,952 feet), while Gangneung is much lower with its highest elevation approximately 100 meters (328 feet), according to Do.
In addition to the cold air, the winds may send temperature levels even lower.
"The lower the temperatures and the higher the wind speed, the colder spectators can feel," Do said. Because PyeongChang is in the mountains, it will be cold regardless of wind direction; however, it may feel colder when the north wind blows, he explained.
“Winds blowing from the north can be colder and drier,” Do said.
The mountain cluster has a larger daily temperature range than the coastal region. The weather characteristics at different mountain locations can vary based on factors such as "relative humidity and wind due to different altitudes, facing directions of slopes and surrounding terrains, and other differences," according to the committee.
High temperatures during the 2010 Winter Olympics ranged between 7 and 12 C (46 and 55 F) in Vancouver, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Eric Leister. Due to the mild weather, the temperature in Vancouver was above normal during those Olympics, he said.
For the 2014 Sochi games, event organizers had to stock up snow well in advance, due to the city’s location on the Black Sea, one of the warmest parts of the country.
High temperatures in nearby Adler, Russia, 15 miles south of Sochi, ranged between 10 and 20 C (50 and 69 F) during the games and the lowest temperature was -17 C (0 F) on Feb. 7-8, 2014. The normal high in Sochi is 8-9 C (47-49 F) and the normal low is 1 C (34-35 F).
While the temperatures in Sochi would be likely be very similar to Adler during this time period, many of the mountain events would’ve faced colder weather, he said.
At times, milder, wet weather can also occur in PyeongChang thanks to a weather pattern that consists of a warm and humid airflow from the southwest. If this pattern were to unfold during the games, as was the case during the same time period in 2016, competition could be affected.
However, current forecasts continue to indicate a frigid opening ceremony, with below-normal temperatures around during a period of the games.
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
More Weather News
India: Monsoon makes slowest arrival in more than a decade, heat to build back into Delhi this weekend
Weather News - June 19, 2019, 12:18:52 PM EDT
Cyclone Vayu brought needed rainfall and a break from intense heat to parts of northwest India in recent days; however, a return to hot and dry weather is expected beginning on Friday.
Weather News - June 19, 2019, 12:01:52 PM EDT
After days of torrential downpours, the fields of Worthy Farm will almost certainly be muddy for Glastonbury Festival 2019.
Weather News - June 19, 2019, 11:56:06 AM EDT
The last leg of a storm parade that has pestered areas from the Plains to the East is the strongest of the bunch and will produce the most significant and widespread batch of severe weather yet.
The summer solstice is just about here, and it may offer clues to some of the ancient wonders around the world.
Weather News - June 19, 2019, 10:00:24 AM EDT
Spectators endured wet weather both Tuesday and Wednesday, but improvement is expected for the final days of the festival.
Weather News - June 19, 2019, 8:20:39 AM EDT
Satellite images show things are relatively quiet now, but a cluster of showers and thunderstorms is expected to grow and eventually develop into a tropical system.
Weather News - June 19, 2019, 12:28:15 PM EDT
After a brief reprieve, severe weather will quickly return to the central United States on Friday and will likely stick around through the weekend.
Weather News - June 18, 2019, 2:38:50 PM EDT
Survivors recount their terrifying close encounter with an EF2 tornado that ripped through town in the span of 10 minutes.