Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Don't sweat it: Sochi's warm weather explained

By Brandon Miller, Meteorologist, CNN
updated 10:53 AM EST, Tue February 11, 2014
Japan's Women's ice-hockey team warms up -- literally -- in balmy conditions on Day 2 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Japan's Women's ice-hockey team warms up -- literally -- in balmy conditions on Day 2 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sochi is the warmest Winter Games location
  • February average temperatures range between 3˚C (37˚F) and 10˚C (50˚F)
  • However, "mountain cluster" venues significantly colder due to altitude
  • Snow-making machines and last year's snow means slopes will remain covered

(CNN) -- If you've packed your warmest hat and coziest jacket for the Winter Olympics, it would be a bit disconcerting to look out your hotel window and see a palm tree, swaying in a gentle spring-like breeze.

That, however, is exactly what many patrons of the Sochi Winter Games are experiencing.

Most people think of Russia in winter and picture the snow-covered cathedrals of Moscow, where average temperatures in February range between minus 10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit) and minus 4 C (24.8 F) and all but require the wearing of those iconic fur hats.

Sochi, however, is one of the southernmost cities in Russia.

No snow in sub-tropical Sochi
U.S. claims its first Olympic gold medal
Sexism at Sochi Olympics?

It's located over 1,000 km south of Moscow and has a completely different climate. Indeed, on most winter days, Sochi (and the nearby town of Adler, where many of the events are being held) are the warmest locations in the country.

This was the case on Monday, when Sochi reached a balmy 15.9 C (61 F) -- warmer than any other Russian city by more than 1 C.

Compare that to the coldest location in Russia -- Siberia's Jikimda, which hit -50 C (-58 F).

The International Olympic Committee cannot say Sochi's temperatures this month come as a surprise, as the city has the warmest climate of any Winter Games host city.

In February, temperatures range between 3 C (37 F) and 10 C (50 F) on average, but as we are seeing they can climb even higher.

These numbers mean that it edges out the previous warmest location. Vancouver, Canada, host of the Games in 2010, averages highs of about 8 C (46 F) and lows around 1 C (34 F).

Like Vancouver, Sochi is a coastal town and has a much warmer climate than the surrounding areas, including the "Mountain Cluster" venues where the skiing, snowboarding, and sliding events -- bobsled, skeleton and luge -- are taking place.

These mountain peaks rise over 2,300 meters, and since air temperatures generally cool with height, it means these venues stay 5 - 10 C (41 F - 50 F) degrees cooler.

Even with this mitigating factor, the full sun and above-average temperatures this week have led to less than ideal conditions for skiing.

Ultimately, however, between the snow-making machines and the millions of pounds (kilos) of snow that were saved from last winter, Sochi will avoid snowless ski and snowboard events.

And since the events held in Sochi and Adler -- the "Coastal Cluster" -- are all indoors, they could be theoretically be held in Dubai in July and it wouldn't make much of a difference -- but let's not give the IOC any ideas!

But those who prefer their Winter Olympics to be held in places that actually feel like winter, and require the wearing of hats and jackets, can look forward to the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where daytime highs rarely go above 0 C (32 F) and night-time lows average -11 C (12 F).

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
With so many new attractions on the way, the next few years are going to be a roller coaster ride.
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Thomas Malthus famously predicted that rising populations would create a food crunch: Could this be true?
updated 5:45 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
The lives of everyone close to Oscar Pistorius and the girl he killed are changed forever, his siblings say.
updated 6:33 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
From "Sick Man of Europe" to the world's fourth largest economy.
updated 8:18 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Serbia and Albania try to play but the major game is called off after a drone flying a political flag enters the stadium.
updated 7:36 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
George Clooney's new wife, is now Amal Clooney, raising the issue of married names.
updated 1:57 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
The mysterious unmanned X-37B space plane returns to Earth after more than two years in space. But the U.S. Air force isn't saying much.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT