Listen, it’s not breaking news. The Winter Olympics are going to be cold. But it seems like the games in Pyeongchang are shaping up to be really, REALLY cold.
Could it be the coldest on record?
While it’s hard to really nail down the superlatives, the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, were supposedly the coldest games on record, with an unseasonably cold average high of 27˚F (-2.7˚C) according to Accuweather. (Lillehammer was also the farthest north the games have ever been, so that probably played a part.)
How does that compare to Pyeongchang? On Friday at Bokwang Phoenix Park, where the freestyle skiing and snowboard events will be held, the low is predicted to be a brisk 3˚F (-16˚C). But remember, that’s just a single place, on a single day. And of course, the park is located in a more mountainous region, meaning it will be colder.
Which brings us to the Debbie Downer part – all of the variables mean the term “coldest Olympics ever” kind of loses its meaning. When the games are held at multiple locations over multiple days at multiple altitudes, it’s hard to pin down any reliable comparisons. Similarly, some of the more remote locations for the games ever the years have incomplete weather records.
So, again: Just trust it will be cold. The weather doesn’t know it’s going for any kind of record. It just knows it’s gonna make your snot freeze to your face.
Is it the coldest place to host the games?
When you’re looking at the average lows for February, Pyeongchang is definitely among the coldest at 13.1˚F (-10.5˚C). But three other cities have clocked in with colder average lows: St. Moretz, Switzerland, which hosted the 1928 and 1948 games, lays claim to the top spot with an average February low of 2.48˚F (-16.4˚C). The other two with colder averages are two-time host Lake Placid, NY and 1988 host Calgary, Canada.
However, when you’re looking at latitude, Pyeongchang is the coldest city in relation to where it is in the world. The city roughly shares a latitude with San Francisco; Richmond, Virginia; and Seville in the south of Spain. Not exactly historically cold places.
But, we have geography to blame for the difference in climates. Areas like San Francisco and southern Spain are kept warmer by their proximity to oceans. The Korean Peninsula is close to the water, but the weather patterns are coming from west to east, meaning it’s being more affected by the weather coming from the cold climates of China, Mongolia and Russia. South Korea is also an extremely mountainous country, which of course cools down the climate in the winter.
Will it be the coldest in a while?
Now that is a definite yes. These games are going to feel a lot colder than the last few (for all of you jet-setting serial Olympic tourists). That’s because the last three games – Sochi, Russia in 2014; Vancouver, Canada, in 2010; and Torino, Italy, in 2006 were the three warmest climates, on average, to host the games.
CNN’s Taylor Ward contributed to this report