Phenomena

Sochi 2014: Making Snow

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Much attention ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics has been dedicated to the question of how this subtropical resort town would provide and maintain adequate snow cover for the Games. Officials promised a combination of natural snow, snow transported from elsewhere, snow stored from the previous year, and, of course, artificial snow. These days many ski resorts rely heavily on snow guns producing artificial snow. There are two main types of snow gun–those which use compressed air and those which have an electrically-driven fan–but the principles behind each are the same. The snow guns provide a continuous spray of air and water, atomizing the water into tiny droplets which freeze rapidly. The effectiveness of snow guns depends on both the temperature and humidity of the surrounding air. With sufficiently dry air, artificial snow can be made even several degrees above freezing. Sochi itself is relatively humid (72% on average for February), but most of the outdoor events are held in Krasnaya Polyana, higher in the mountains where temperatures are typically much lower and artificial snow can be manufactured. That said, temperatures have reached as high as 15 degrees Celsius during the Games so far, and athletes have complained about the changing snow conditions in several events. (Video credit: On The Snow)

FYFD is celebrating #Sochi2014 with a look at the fluid dynamics of the Winter Games. Check out our previous posts, including how lugers slide fast, how wind affects ski jumpers, and why ice is slippery.

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