Athletes and spectators now flock to Pyeongchang in South Korea to participate in and watch the 2018 Winter Olympics, but they are not the only ones who are there.
NASA scientists are also at the Winter Games — not just for the event but also for the snow and ice.
NASA, along with 19 other agencies from other countries, is taking advantage of the Winter Games to observe snowfall. The goal is for scientists to eventually be able to accurately predict when it is going to snow.
“Meteorologists are predicting bitterly cold temperatures for these 23rd Winter Olympics–a stark contrast from the slushy and unseasonably warm games in Vancouver (2010) and Sochi (2014). In fact, the 2018 Olympics could be the coldest in the history of the games, as frigid westerlies tend to blow in from Siberia,” NASA said in a statement.
The project is part of a collaboration of scientists from 11 countries who are using 70 instruments spread out across the region to make snow measurements beginning Feb. 9 at the start of the Olympics until the end of the Paralympics on March 18.
NASA engineer Manuel Vega and his colleagues from other parts of the globe is studying how well they can measure snow from the ground and space to effectively help in predicting snowstorm. The researchers will use ground instruments, weather models, and satellite data to gather detailed information about current snow conditions. They will also test experimental forecast models.
The researchers will conduct observations and make snow forecasts at 16 different points near the venues of the event every six hours, which will then be relayed to Olympic officials.
Researchers said that they are interested in conducting studies in South Korea because the terrains shed more light on the physics of snow in mountainous areas. An improved understanding of how this works can help boost the accuracy of current observations and models.
A major producer of snow for the PyeongChang area is a system known as “backdoor cold front.” Cold air that travels over the Sea of Japan picks up moisture and energy and then hits the northeast side of South Korea.
Because the terrain here changes dramatically, air flow changes rapidly and spurs big snow events near PyeongChang. This is what the researchers hope for because this will allow them to test how well they can predict snow storms.