Russian scientists eye weather-altering technology for Sochi Olympics

Russian meteorologists have begun monitoring weather patterns in the North Caucasus mountain range to gauge the possibility of using weather-altering technology for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

A network of stationary and mobile data stations has been deployed in the mountains above Sochi, a resort on the Black Sea that will host Russia’s first ever Winter Games, a statement on the Natural Resources Ministry website said.

“The need to conduct investigations comes from the fact that the ‘weather has never been made’ in mountainous locations,” the Ministry said.

A concern for the Sochi Olympics – as with any winter sport competition – is guaranteeing a minimum quantity of snow. Pouring chemicals into clouds from planes can provoke precipitation, a tactic officials use in Moscow and St. Petersburg to stave off rain on public holidays.

But Russian scientists are unsure how the technology will adapt to mountainous regions, where fast temperature fluctuations make cloud behavior more unpredictable.

If the technology is adopted, Russian officials may be able to avoid the embarrassment of the Vancouver Olympics last year, when snow had to be brought in by trucks due to unseasonably warm weather that left Cypress Mountain almost bare.

The opposite problem – too much snow, which delayed the men’s Olympics super-combined race in Vancouver – could also be addressed because clouds could be seeded to shed their load before they reach the slopes.

Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the organizing committee, has provided guarantees on the quantity and quality of the snow.

Other contingency measures include using artificial snow production facilities, which the committee tested last year in Austria, and storing natural snow deposits year-round in huge chambers.

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