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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.

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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).

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