WeatherWeather Science

Actions

Artificial snow, not natural snow, making headlines at the Winter Games

Beijing ski slope satellite image
Artificial snow information graphic
Posted at 4:22 PM, Feb 08, 2022

If you've watched any of our Winter Olympics coverage this year on News5, it's hard to ignore how little snow there is for the host city.

In fact, the mountains around Beijing look more brown than white.

At most venues, the snow at this year's games is almost entirely man-made.

Check out the following satellite image from NASA Earth Observatory that only shows solid white over the Olympic venue ski runs, and nowhere else.

Beijing ski slope satellite image
Startling image of bare mountains sounding some of the Beijing Olympic ski venues

This part of China is typically wet in the summer, but tends to be very dry in the winter.

Therefore, the host city has had to rely on nearly 100% artificial snow for the Games so far.

While us Coloradans prefer our powder, many ski resorts in the state also create fake snow.

So, what does that process look like...

Artificial snow information graphic
Here's some information pertaining to making and maintaining artificial snow

Ideal weather conditions should involve an air temperature of at least 28 degrees, no warmer.

While that's important, something known as the wet bulb temperature is more often considered the key ingredient.

It's a combination of the air temp and relative humidity.

In essence, the lower the wet bulb temperature, the more snow that can be made per hour.

While the snow can be more durable, it can also pack down into ice more easily.

As someone who has skied most of his life, it's easy to tell the difference, and I much prefer our state's powdery goodness.

As for any hints of snow in Beijing, the forecast here is likely to stay dry through at least the end of the week.