Photos: Erratic snowfall raises concerns for Sapporo’s Olympic bid

Earlier this month, about 14 inches (34 centimeters) of snow fell in just six hours following the nearly barren months of December and January in Japan's northern city of Sapporo. The snowfall was good news for tourism, for the “look” of the annual Sapporo Snow Festival, and for organizers who hope to bring the 2030 Winter Olympics to the city. Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympics back in 1972. But the lack of snow — and then an abundance of it — is also a sign that the local climate is changing, which has researchers in the area watching the weather very closely.

UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2020 12:00 PM IST 10 Photos
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A worker blows fresh snow off a snow sculpture celebrating Sapporo’s hosting of Tokyo 2020’s marathon and race walk. After two months of almost no snow, Japan’s northern city of Sapporo was overwhelmed with the white stuff. Earlier this month, about 14 inches fell in just six hours following the nearly barren months of December and January. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

A worker blows fresh snow off a snow sculpture celebrating Sapporo’s hosting of Tokyo 2020’s marathon and race walk. After two months of almost no snow, Japan’s northern city of Sapporo was overwhelmed with the white stuff. Earlier this month, about 14 inches fell in just six hours following the nearly barren months of December and January. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2020 12:00 PM IST
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Tourists gather in front of a large snow sculpture of Poland's Palace on the Isle during the annual Sapporo Snow Festival at Odori Park. The snowfall was good news for tourism, for the “look” of the annual Sapporo Snow Festival, and for organizers who hope to bring the 2030 Winter Olympics to the city. Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympics back in 1972. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

Tourists gather in front of a large snow sculpture of Poland's Palace on the Isle during the annual Sapporo Snow Festival at Odori Park. The snowfall was good news for tourism, for the “look” of the annual Sapporo Snow Festival, and for organizers who hope to bring the 2030 Winter Olympics to the city. Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympics back in 1972. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2020 12:00 PM IST
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A man walks across an icy street in Sapporo. The lack of snow however — and then an abundance of it — is also a sign that the local climate is changing, which has researchers in the area watching the weather very closely. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

A man walks across an icy street in Sapporo. The lack of snow however — and then an abundance of it — is also a sign that the local climate is changing, which has researchers in the area watching the weather very closely. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2020 12:00 PM IST
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A mother pulls her children in a sled on an icy sidewalk. “We often have this kind of event,” Dr. Tomonori Sato, an associate professor at Hokkaido University, told The Associated Press. “However, the magnitude was abnormal. This maybe is because of warming temperatures.” (Jae C. Hong / AP)

A mother pulls her children in a sled on an icy sidewalk. “We often have this kind of event,” Dr. Tomonori Sato, an associate professor at Hokkaido University, told The Associated Press. “However, the magnitude was abnormal. This maybe is because of warming temperatures.” (Jae C. Hong / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2020 12:00 PM IST
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Self-Defense Force members remove fresh snow piled on a large snow sculpture of Poland's Palace on the Isle during the Sapporo Snow Festival. Sato predicts that Hokkaido, the island where Sapporo is located, will have more warming winters, which has to be a worry for an area that is officially bidding for the Winter Olympics. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

Self-Defense Force members remove fresh snow piled on a large snow sculpture of Poland's Palace on the Isle during the Sapporo Snow Festival. Sato predicts that Hokkaido, the island where Sapporo is located, will have more warming winters, which has to be a worry for an area that is officially bidding for the Winter Olympics. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2020 12:00 PM IST
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Chairlifts transport skiers at a ski resort in Niseko, Hokkaido. According to Sato, January’s average daily minimum temperature in Sapporo has been continually rising: almost 9 degrees Celsius over the course of a century based on his analysis. “It has shifted dramatically,” Sato said. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

Chairlifts transport skiers at a ski resort in Niseko, Hokkaido. According to Sato, January’s average daily minimum temperature in Sapporo has been continually rising: almost 9 degrees Celsius over the course of a century based on his analysis. “It has shifted dramatically,” Sato said. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2020 12:00 PM IST
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People smoke in a smoking room made with ice blocks at the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. Sato said there will be snow if Sapporo gets the Winter Olympics. But he could’t guarantee much snow 80 years from now. “Even if Sapporo gets snow, it will melt right away,” Sato said. “At the end of this century, it will be difficult maintain the snow festival.” (Jae C. Hong / AP)

People smoke in a smoking room made with ice blocks at the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. Sato said there will be snow if Sapporo gets the Winter Olympics. But he could’t guarantee much snow 80 years from now. “Even if Sapporo gets snow, it will melt right away,” Sato said. “At the end of this century, it will be difficult maintain the snow festival.” (Jae C. Hong / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2020 12:00 PM IST
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A man walks through a snow storm past a coffee shop in Sapporo. In fact, it was difficult to keep the snow festival going this year. Trucks had to bring in snow from everywhere to keep the festival going, an event that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists. The city’s 40-year-old ski marathon event was cancelled due to a lack of snow. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

A man walks through a snow storm past a coffee shop in Sapporo. In fact, it was difficult to keep the snow festival going this year. Trucks had to bring in snow from everywhere to keep the festival going, an event that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists. The city’s 40-year-old ski marathon event was cancelled due to a lack of snow. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2020 12:00 PM IST
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A woman stands on a snow-covered platform as a train approaches a station in Biei, central Hokkaido. Paul Sheehan, an Australian who has been coming to Japan for several years to build snow sculptures, noticed the difference this time in Sapporo’s Odori Park. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

A woman stands on a snow-covered platform as a train approaches a station in Biei, central Hokkaido. Paul Sheehan, an Australian who has been coming to Japan for several years to build snow sculptures, noticed the difference this time in Sapporo’s Odori Park. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2020 12:00 PM IST
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A commuter rides a tram during a snow storm in Sapporo. “Previous years, we’ve had three, four meters of snow,” he said. “Where we are standing now, last year we were a metre higher. We are now standing one metre lower.” (Jae C. Hong / AP)

A commuter rides a tram during a snow storm in Sapporo. “Previous years, we’ve had three, four meters of snow,” he said. “Where we are standing now, last year we were a metre higher. We are now standing one metre lower.” (Jae C. Hong / AP)

UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2020 12:00 PM IST
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