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    NASA Shows Us Subtropical, Snow-Strapped Sochi From Space

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor

    Image: NASA

    Satellites don't lie, and Sochi doesn't have much snow. Meteorologists say that enough has fallen to ensure high quality competition for the Winter Games, but from space, it looks pretty sparse. Despite a national initiative to import half a million tons of snow and a Herculean snow-making effort that helped the Russian city produce 1,000 football fields worth of powder, humans weren't able to add a whole lot of white to Sochi's arid ridges. All of which highlights the unique, hottest-ever environs where Russia chose to host the Olympics.

    NASA goes so far as to call it "southwest-looking," which is both accurate and ironic, considering we're talking about the Winter Games here. These images were produced by "the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft," where "red indicates vegetation, white is snow, and the resort site appears in gray."

    They offer an earthward glimpse of the warmest city ever to host the Winter Olympics—Sochi is in a subtropical climate, the hottest in Russia, and experienced even less snowfall than average last winter. These games are also allegedly the most expensive in history; a reported $50 billion has been spent preparing for them, plenty of which has been poured into the snow-making effort. 

    There wasn't much ice in Sochi a month ago, either, when an astronaut tweeted this image from the International Space Station on January 5th, saying "To all the Olympic athletes in the US, @USOlympic and around the world. A shot of Sochi for you. Good luck!"

    Good luck indeed, doing snowsports without much snow. In all seriousness, snow appears to be the least of the Games' problems, which now include stray dog cullings, grumpy sportswriters, and a malfunction-plagued opening ceremony. While Sochi itself "lies within a humid subtropical region, with relatively balmy mid-winter weather," according to the Capital Weather Gang, "the mountains in the city’s backdrop, about an hour away, are sufficiently cold and snowy for winter games."

    But they probably won't be for long. A report recently found that if climate change continues at the current pace, only six of the last 19 cities that hosted Winter Games will still be getting enough snow to do so in 2050. Sochi certainly won't be one of them.