I happen to live in very close proximity to Vancouver, BC (home of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games). One of the reasons I’ve chosen to live in what is known as the Greater Vancouver area – for the past 22 years – is the dependably “temperate climate”. What this means is that we rarely get any snow … in this part of the country, mother nature agrees with me that snow belongs on the mountain tops in the visible distance.
My ex and I spent our first New Years Eve out here at a restaurant overlooking a tennis court on which players, dressed in shorts, were happily volleying. And I love the bragging rights I get to exercise when talking to my friends and family back East in January and February each year, when croci crop up, early Rhodos bloom, cherry trees blossom, and daffodils dance (well, maybe some of the foregoing does not occur till early March … but you get the picture).
It also means that our summers are such that, notwithstanding the occasional relatively short-lived “heatwave” (such as we experienced last July) air conditioned homes are, typically, few and far between. However ….
There’s a Jan. 23 article by Barry Wigmore in the U.K.’s Daily Mail Online with the headline “Mild weather in Canada forces Vancouver to ship in tons of snow for Winter Olympics”
How wrong is this article – and how misleading the headline? Let me count the ways!
First the headline: Vancouver has not been “force[d] to ship in tons of snow”. There are no scheduled events in Vancouver which would require any snow.
Second the pictures and captions: There are three pics and captions. Two of the three captions are wrong (and the third is somewhat dubious, but I’ll give the captioner the benefit of dubious doubt). The caption on the first pic is:
Torchbearer and former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed carries out the Olympic ritual in Vancouver
Perhaps Wigmore (or the captioner) was confused by the fact that there is a road that runs through Vancouver and environs called the “Lougheed Highway”.
However, the fact is that Peter Lougheed’s stint was at the Alberta/Btitish Columbia border – at least a day’s drive away from Vancouver – when he was “carry[ing] out the Olympic ritual”. But don’t take my word for it, check the video which includes Lougheed’s torch-bearing trek.
Caption on the third pic is:
Winter Olympics chiefs are drafting in emergency supplies of snow to cope with Vancouver’s warm weather
The foreground of the picture (Vancouver) always looks this way at this time of year (and – come to think of it – with the exception of the very few snowfalls I mentioned earlier, appears this way year-round).
Wigmore may – or may not – be responsible for the erroneous headline and captions. But he is indisputably responsible for the “substance” of his text, which contains many counter-factual assertions, beginning with his opening paragraph:
Snow-bound Britain may be slipping and sliding through the worst winter for decades, but it’s a different story in once-Arctic Canada.
I certainly wouldn’t take his word for anything. But I do accept his claim of “Snow-bound Britain”, which was confirmed by my Birmingham cousin, who had sent me the following pic:
As for Wigmore’s “once-Arctic Canada” … it will no doubt surprise him to learn that – notwithstanding NASA’s GHCN/GISS best efforts to make it appear otherwise – not only is the Arctic part of Canada alive and still frozen, but the rest of Canada – the most pertinent of which in his article includes Vancouver, its envrions and Whistler – were never part of “Arctic Canada”. Nor are they now.
[…] officials there have chartered a fleet of helicopters to fly in thousands of tons of snow for the Winter Olympics.
Without the emergency snowlift, which is also shipping in tons of snow in convoys of giant lorries, Olympic chiefs feared they might have to abandon the Games that have already cost £1.5 billion and are due to start in three weeks.
I’ve no idea where Wigmore might have been getting his “facts”; But the following, in a Jan 20 press release, can be found on the VANOC site:
Jan 20, 2010
Arrival of Olympic Flame in British Columbia heralds final leg of journey towards 2010 Olympic Winter Games
Vancouver, BC — With just 23 days remaining before the world is welcomed to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the board of directors — in their final meeting before the Games begin — gave their seal of approval to the finishing touches the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) is preparing on behalf of all Canadians for a worldwide audience.
“The board is confident the organizing committee and its partners are well prepared to meet the extraordinary day-to-day challenges of hosting one of the largest international sporting events,” said board chairman Rusty Goepel. “Many hurdles have been overcome in the past few months —both with ingenuity and a lot of long hours by dedicated staff, contractors and volunteers, which will make all Canadians proud.”
Cypress Mountain: A light snow fell late last week on the Olympic venue as the venue team continues to work 24 hours a day to preserve and protect the integrity of the snowboard and freestyle skiing courses. After days of unseasonably warm and wet weather, VANOC and Cypress Mountain management agreed on January 13 to close the ski resort’s alpine runs to the public. The snow management and snow harvesting program for the Games remains on track and contingency plans are in place to deliver an exceptional field of play for athletes.
As you can see, there has been no talk of “abandon[ing] the games”. Not only that, but contrary to Wigmore’s:
[…] it was too warm to make snow with snow-blower machines so the winter fun resort was closed to the public yesterday while new snow was flown in from mountains 500 miles further north.
the Cypress venue has been closed to the public since Jan. 13, when VANOC had announced:
Jan 13, 2010
Ski resort to reopen to public after Games on March 9
Vancouver, BC ― To preserve and protect the integrity of the 2010 Winter Games snowboard and freestyle skiing courses at Cypress Mountain, the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) and Cypress Mountain management have agreed this morning to close the ski resort’s alpine runs to the public effective today, two and half weeks earlier than planned. Cypress Mountain will reopen its alpine runs for public use as planned on March 9.
About Snow Making at Cypress Mountain
Cypress Mountain has a snowmaking reservoir of more than 22.7 million litres of water (five million gallons) and the terrain has been shaped to accommodate the construction of freestyle skiing and snowboard event courses with the minimum amount of snow needed.
State-of-the-art snow making using 35 snow guns has been operating around-the-clock since November and has converted over 95.3 million litres of water (21 million gallons) to snow needed to construct the courses. This snow has been stockpiled all over the mountain to ensure the terrain at Games time can sustain all weather conditions. Over the next three weeks, the snow will be pushed down the mountain by snow grooming machinery where it will be shaped by machine and by hand to create the freestyle and snowboard courses, including the 60-metre-long superpipe, which is 19.5 m to 20 m wide and 6.5 m high.
Wigmore had preceded his above-noted falsity with the following:
Organisers admitted that they seriously underestimated the impact of climate change
for which I can find no source. It’s possible that Wigmore misread the following in a sidebar of a Washington State online daily:
At least one helicopter is already in action, moving straw bales that will give shape to competition courses normally made entirely of snow.
“This is a normal course of action in temperate conditions, and we have all the technology, equipment, people and expertise to deliver the Games,” said Cathy Priestner Allinger, the group’s executive vice president for sport and games operations
Olympic officials have said they’ve been stockpiling real and artificial snow for months, just in case the region’s temperate rainforest climate refused to co-operate.
Or maybe Wigmore is convinced that El Nino is due to human generated CO2. In any event, he concluded his error-riddled article with the following:
Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, author of The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics, said the last time a lack of snow forced a host city into such drastic action was in 1964, for the Games in Innsbruck.
The Austrian government called in the army to truck in snow and carve blocks of ice from a mountain glacier to build a bobsleigh track.
Mr Wallechinsky said: ‘The problems in Vancouver beg the question are we going to have to re-think where we put the Winter Olympics because of global warming?’
Mind you, it occurs to me that there are probably enough errors in Wigmore’s article, that one or more of his claims might qualify for inclusion in the next IPCC “Assessment Report” – or perhaps one of James Hansen’s naughty NASA nonsense notes.
For the record, I did submit 2 comments on Wigmore’s creative writing exercise yesterday. But they don’t seem to have made it past moderation for some reason!