Published: 2021-07-21 17:09:00
Updated: 2021-07-21 17:28:07
By Mike Maze, WRAL meteorologist
The excitement is growing as the 2020 Summer Olympics are about to kick off in Tokyo on Friday. But current headlines loom over the games as COVID-19 is first and foremost in our minds. Something else we need to be aware of is how climate change will impact the games. The last time Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics was 57 years ago in 1964, and boy have things changed climate-wise since then!
When we look at the average temperature for the months of July and August there has been a noticeable rise since 1964. The average temperature over the years has risen at least 2 degrees. Tokyo already has a hot and muggy climate which is comparable to our climate here in the Triangle area, but with the 2° increase in the average temperatures, this could make the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics one of the hottest in modern times and have a detrimental impact to our athletes.
Even the best athletes will be adversely affected by climate change. More intense heat, humidity and poorer air quality could lead to heat-related illnesses and decreased performance.
In hotter temperatures, certain sports, like the marathon, tennis and the triathlon, can become dangerous. Factors that can increase heat risk include duration of play, intensity of play, surface of play (water vs. turf vs. blacktop) and more.
To get ahead of the heat, Olympic organizers have changed the location of events, set up cooling stations around venues, and encouraged athletes to incorporate “cooling downs” before, during and after their event. But even with these preventative measures our athletes will be impacted by the heat.
You can really get an idea how climate change is having an impact in Tokyo by looking at the number of days above 95°. Back in 1964 and even throughout the 70s and 80s, there were not many days at or above 95°, but when we reach the past 20 years you can see how many days Tokyo experiences highs at or above 95°. There is a definitive increase. In fact, Tokyo now sees on average 8 more days at or above 95° than they did back in 1964.
We wish all the athletes the best of luck in the Olympic and Paralympic games this summer along with a comfortable forecast!