Acing the test at the Vancouver Olympics
Practice makes perfect is a motto that Olympic athletes and Environment Canada forecasters are both taking to heart as the one-year countdown to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games begins.
EC has entered Olympic test-mode in full swing, lending its weather forecasting expertise to the 19 weather forecasting test events that began in January and will run to the end of March of this year.
Test events are major winter sport championships -- like the Cross-Country Skiing World Cup and the Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup -- that draw large numbers of spectators. These events allow Games organizers and their partners to ‘rehearse’ operations before the actual Games begin.
The EC delegation
An Environment Canada test event at the International Federation of Sport (FIS) Cup ski jumping competition at Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley. Photo: Mark Barton © Environment Canada, 2008. Click here to enlarge.
So what is EC’s role exactly in these events? The department will do what it is best known for – predict and monitor weather patterns. After all, in an alpine environment like Vancouver and Whistler, accurate weather prediction during the Olympics is incredibly important because it affects all aspects of games operations – safety of athletes, spectators and officials, event scheduling, spectator comfort, workforce deployment, transportation and security.
A team of EC forecasters will provide comprehensive weather forecast data for each sport venue, as well as extra forecasts and weather observations necessary for specific events. For example, ski jumping events require typical weather data as well as more focused attention to high frequency winds.
Other sporting events such as cross-country skiing require extra data like snow surface temperature. Snow surface temperature helps determine what kind of snow that skiers can expect – hard snow, softer snow or icier conditions – allowing them to adjust the wax on equipment and improve their performance accordingly.
Nowcasting with Snow V-10
A ski jumper takes off at Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley. Photo: Mark Barton © Environment Canada, 2008. Click here to enlarge.
One of the most anticipated tools that EC forecasters will be using during the test events is a nowcasting research program called SNOW V-10 (the Science of Nowcasting winter weather for Vancouver 2010). Tools produced by SNOW V-10 will complement normal weather forecasts by providing high frequency, short-term (6 hour) forecasts.
SNOW V-10 is an international science experiment under the World Weather Research Program of the World Meteorological Organization, but lead by Canada. EC forecasters will use and evaluate, and if necessary, provide feedback and recommendations to the scientists who originally designed the nowcasting tools.
SNOW V-10 is made up of weather sensors that are located throughout the lower mainland and the alpine areas. These sensors are found both within and outside of sporting venues. All sensors measure typical weather data, with the sensors inside the venues providing extra specific data such as visibility. Data is consistently updated in 15 minute and 5 minute intervals. This high frequency data is then used in the nowcasting systems to improve near term forecasts.
The use of nowcasting as another aid to predict the weather during these test events will provide an extra measure of confidence to everyone in this demanding and high-pressure environment like the Olympic Games.
The Doppler radar in the Callaghan Valley is on track to be ready to go in March 2009. This system will be used to measure precipitation levels and types (rain and snow) as well as wind velocity. Forecasters are looking to practice using this system next winter in advance of the Games.
Business as Usual
A Whistler Roundhouse / VOA weather station at 1,625m elevation on Whistler Mountain. Photo: Mark Barton © Environment Canada, 2008. Click here to enlarge.
EC forecasters are seasoned veterans in specialized forecasting for the Olympic Games, with this winter being their fourth involvement in test events. Just as athletes train day in and day out in preparation for one race, the forecasting experts behind the scenes do the same to guarantee a solid performance.
The test events team also includes forecasters from the Weather Network and the U.S. National Weather Services, as well as local volunteers who coordinate race offices, act as tour guides and hospitality hosts, and assist with other Games operations that require assistance. Each team member undergoes formal off-season training in complex terrains and alpine environments to prepare them for the test events. Together with EC’s forecasters, they are a team that can’t be beat!
- Date Modified:
- Environment Canada is producing weather forecasting expertise to 19 weather forecasting test events that began in January and will run to the end of March of this year.
- EC will provide comprehensive weather data for each sport venue, as well as extra data that is necessary for specific events.
- SNOW V-10 is an international science experiment under the World Weather Research Program of the World Meteorological Organization, but led by Canada.
- The test events team also include forecasters from the Weather Network and the U.S. National Weather Services team, as well as local volunteers who coordinate race offices, act as tour guides and hospitality hosts, and assist with other Games operations that require assistance.