Climate change could jeopardize future Winter Olympic games

Climate change could get in the way of future Olympic Winter Games, a new study finds.

If the globe continues to warm at its current rate — and measures aren't taken to mitigate climate change — the report concludes that only six out of the last 19 locations that hosted the winter games will be cold enough to hold them by the end of the century.

The report was conducted by the University of Waterloo and Austria's Management Center at Innsbruck.

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"It is clear that the cultural legacy of the world celebration of winter sport is at risk if the warmer climate scenarios of the late-21st century are allowed to occur," the report states.

Researchers looked at two scenarios to formulate global warming projections: one that follows a low-emissions trajectory and another with high-emissions. 

The study uses the latest report by the United Nations's estimates on global climate change and data from the World Meteorological Organization to access future greenhouse gas emissions effects on snow depth and temperatures at a given location.

The probability that the daily minimum temperature at the competition would stay below freezing — or zero degrees celsius — and the probability that at least 30 centimeters of snow can be maintained at higher elevations determines whether a country can host the winter games. 

“Weather has challenged the Winter Olympics for years,” Daniel Scott of the University of Waterloo and co-author of the study told CBC News. 

“Unfortunately, under the warmer scenarios, far fewer places that have hosted the games in the past would still be able to do so," he said.

Under the low emissions scenario, Sochi, Russia, the host of this year's games, would not make the cut by 2050.

And under a high emissions scenario, Squaw Valley, Calif., which held the games in 1960, would not have a reliable climate by 2050. 

By the 2080s, the only "climate reliable" cities to hold winter games would be Calgary, Canada, France's Albertville, Italy's Cortina d'Ampezzo, Switzerland's St. Moritz, Japan's Sapporo and Salt Lake City, Utah. 

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