Let the Games Begin

Although much of the Badger State has been focused on football the past couple of weeks, and will likely be for the remainder of the year, there is another huge sporting event taking place that you may have heard of, The 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Needless to say, the next two weeks or so will be filled with a cornucopia of Olympic sporting events, from soccer, to swimming, to gymnastics, to track and field, and one of my favorites, water polo. One of the many topics that has been on the minds of the athletes and spectators for that matter leading up to and now during the games is that of the weather. Sure they'll want to know when it might rain, or if blistering heat is in the the works, but the one aspect that rightfully has gotten the most attention is the air quality. I took the time to do some searching around online to see what sites I could find that provide current air quality conditions for Beijing, along with a forecast. The first site I stumbled upon apparently has a great interactive map and forecast, but also requires a user name and password. Since I'm not willing to establish an account just to check air standards, I moved on and found a European site that with just a few clicks provides some colorful maps. Produced by the AMFIC (which stands for Air quality Monitoring and Forecasting In China) this site provides the ozone, NO2, and one other small particle forecasts over a three day period. I'm no expert in explaining the ppm (parts per million) of each air pollutant, but basically the higher the number, the worst off the air is to breathe.

As you may have heard, the folks in China have been making efforts to improve the air quality in China, by pulling cars off of the road, closing factories, and even going so far as to artificially influence the weather. This would include such things as seeding clouds to cause rain to help clear up stagnate conditions and inversely to cause the weather to be "perfect" for the opening ceremonies by keeping the storm clouds away. You know it has to be a top priority when there is a Beijing Weather Modification Office that oversees all of this.

Hopefully after all is said and done the weather won't have a big impact on the outcome of the games, but many will be watching it closely. Safe to say, if the pictures you see coming back from Beijing are constantly hazy or socked in with fog, you'll know that it is likely caused by a stagnant weather pattern and/or the lingering pollution in the air.  I'll be much more interested in seeing how our US athletes perform and who comes away with the gold.  Go Team USA!

Here are some links to check out:

The Beijing Forecast from Weatherunderground.com
Interactive Satellite of Eastern Asia
Beijing Air Quality Blog (updated daily)
More on Artificially Influencing the Weather

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