Click on the picture to enlarge. Click here for a wider view (you can see the Caspian Sea on the far right). This picture was taken on February 3, 2014, just a few days before the opening ceremonies of the XXII Olympic Games. Sochi is located on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, not far from the southernmost point in all of Russia, Sochi is a resort town with a warm, humid subtropical climate. Palm trees grow there. However, the cold alpine climate of the Caucasus Mountains lies just a short distance inland. In the winter, the mountains offer steep slopes for snow sports and a decent venue for the Olympic games. This image, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite, provides context for the area around Sochi.
The Caucasus Mountains form the border between Europe and Asia, spanning the gap between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. They also often form the boundary between cold, dry air from Asia and relatively warmer and more humid air coming in from the Mediterranean Sea to the west. Flowing in from the south and west, the humid ocean air hits the Caucasus and gets pushed up. The rising air cools, resulting in heavy snowfall when temperatures are cool enough. Because of this pattern, snowfall tends to be heaviest in the southern and western Caucasus. Rosa Khutor, the new ski resort that is the venue for mountain events at these Olympics, is built in one such region. The Olympic Village is not right at Sochi, but a short bus ride to the south (at Adler). The average high temperature for mid-February at Adler is 53. The month started out cool, with highs in the mid 40s for the first six days of February. Then it warmed into the 50s and finally into the low 60s for Weds. to Fri. (12th to 14th). It should turn a little cooler for the early part of this coming week.
Rosa Khutor is about 25 miles from Sochi and its subtropical warmth (afternoon highs in winter in Sochi are around 50F). Leading up to the games, some critics voiced concerns that Rosa Khutor would not have enough snow for competition. In February 2013, it was warm and raining at the resort, forcing several World Cup events to be cancelled. Spurred by these fears, the resort stockpiled 16 million cubic feet of snow and installed hundreds of snow-making machines to make sure the slopes would be snow-covered. Temperatures cool as you go higher up in elevation. Some ski runs have had dry, powdery snow higher up at the start, but slushier conditions at the end of the races where it is warmer. Picture and story information from NASA Earth Observatory.