Over the course of the last 50 to 100 years, every single site where the Winter Olympics has ever been held has gotten warmer, seeing a 1.66 degree Celsius (2.98 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in the average February low temperature over a 50-year period.

It's been hard to avoid discussing climate change in the context of the Winter Games at Sochi, where temperatures have been balmy. (One week ago today, it was warmer than Myrtle Beach.) People are actually swimming in the nearby Black Sea. Sochi was always an unusual pick for a Winter Games site, given that it's a summer resort town. But it's not alone in being increasingly inhospitable to winter sports.

A report from the University of Waterloo in Canada has gotten a lot of attention, showing how average temperatures have increased at Winter Games sites since the 1920s. As the world continues to warm, and as the world sees less snow during winter months, snowmaking — a staple in Sochi — will become more common as a solution to allow the Games to be held. More than 100 athletes called for action on climate change, writing an open letter to world leaders. "Winter is in jeopardy," it reads.

The broad strokes of climate change are obvious: the world gets warmer. In specifics, it's harder to articulate. Its effects are different in different places and the extent to which it warms depends on how much greenhouse gas the world pumps into the atmosphere.

So we took a look at how it had already warmed in places where past Games had been held. Using data from the National Climatic Data Center, we found the closest monitoring station to each Olympic site, and tracked the average February low temperature as far back as the data allowed. In every case, the most recent decade was warmer than the first available decade; in nearly every case, a simple depiction of the long-term temperature trend (the blue line on the graphs below) shows an obvious ongoing increase. (In places where the sites were very close together, we used one set of data, as in the first grouping below.)

As for Sochi? Records from the NCDC don't go back very far and show that, of all the sites, it's warming at a slower rate. The average low temperature in February in Sochi was only 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher last decade than it was in the 1960s. Compared to the other venues, that's downright good news.

 

Winter Games I, 1924: Chamonix, France

Winter Games XVI, 1992: Albertville, France

Winter Games XX, 2006: Turin, Italy

Average Feb. low, 1870s: -10.07 °C (13.87 °F)

2000s: -9.93 °C (14.13 °F)

Difference: 0.14 °C (0.26 °F)

 

Winter Games II, 1928 and Winter Games V, 1948: St. Moritz, Switzerland

Average Feb. low, 1910s: -1.06 °C (30.09 °F)

2000s: 2.01 °C (35.62 °F)

Difference: 3.07 °C (5.53 °F)

 

Winter Games III, 1932 and Winter Games XIII, 1980: Lake Placid, United States

Average Feb. low, 1900s: -17.84 °C (-0.11 °F)

2000s: -15.08 °C (4.86 °F)

Difference: 2.76 °C (4.97 °F)

Winter Games IV, 1936: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Average Feb. low, 1900s: -12.53 °C (9.45 °F)

2000s: -9.88 °C (14.22 °F)

Difference: 2.65 °C (4.77 °F)

 

Winter Games VI, 1952: Oslo, Norway

Average Feb. low, 1940s: -8.03 °C (17.55 °F)

2000s: -4.63 °C (23.67 °F)

Difference: 3.4 °C (6.12 °F)

 

Winter Games VII, 1956: Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy

Winter Games IX, 1964 and Winter Games XII, 1976: Innsbruck, Austria

Average Feb. low, 1890s: -16.03 °C (3.15 °F)

2000s: -14.63 °C (5.67 °F)

Difference: 1.4 °C (2.52 °F)

 

Winter Games VIII, 1960: Squaw Valley, United States

Average Feb. low, 1910s: -8.04 °C (17.53 °F)

2000s: -5.67 °C (21.79 °F)

Difference: 2.37 °C (4.26 °F)

 

Winter Games X, 1968: Grenoble, France

Average Feb. low, 1930s: -0.49 °C (31.12 °F)

2000s: 0.84 °C (33.51 °F)

Difference: 1.33 °C (2.39 °F)

 

Winter Games XI, 1972: Sapporo, Japan

Average Feb. low, 1910s: -3.31 °C (26.04 °F)

2000s: -2.19 °C (28.06 °F)

Difference: 1.12 °C (2.02 °F)

 

Winter Games XIV, 1984: Sarajevo, Yugoslavia

Average Feb. low, 1940s: -15.08 °C (4.86 °F)

2000s: -11.44 °C (11.41 °F)

Difference: 3.64 °C (6.55 °F)

 

Winter Games XV, 1988: Calgary, Canada

Average Feb. low, 1940s: -15.08 °C (4.86 °F)

2000s: -11.44 °C (11.41 °F)

Difference: 3.64 °C (6.55 °F)

 

Winter Games XVII, 1994: Lillehammer, Norway

Average Feb. low, 1960s: -4.91 °C (23.16 °F)

2000s: -4.43 °C (24.03 °F)

Difference: 0.48 °C (0.87 °F)

 

Winter Games XVIII, 1998: Nagano, Japan

Average Feb. low, 1960s: -4.91 °C (23.16 °F)

2000s: -4.43 °C (24.03 °F)

Difference: 0.48 °C (0.87 °F)

 

Winter Games XIX, 2002: Salt Lake City, United States

Average Feb. low, 1950s: -14.6 °C (5.72 °F)

2000s: -11.7 °C (10.94 °F)

Difference: 2.9 °C (5.22 °F)

 

Winter Games XXI, 2010: Vancouver, Canada

Average Feb. low, 1930s: 0.72 °C (33.3 °F)

2000s: 2.04 °C (35.67 °F)

Difference: 1.32 °C (2.37 °F)

 

Winter Games XXII, 2014: Sochi, Russia

Average Feb. low, 1960s: 2.11 °C (35.8 °F)

2000s: 2.98 °C (37.36 °F)

Difference: 0.87 °C (1.56 °F)

 

Winter Games XXIII, 2018: Pyeongchang, South Korea

Average Feb. low, 1940s: -2.3 °C (27.86 °F)

2000s: 0.08 °C (32.14 °F)

Difference: 2.38 °C (4.28 °F)