Insights & News

IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019

16th September 2019

WHERE WEATHER MEETS SPORTS

RECORD BEATING

 

Doha has been chosen as the conditions should be perfect to run fast times.

Meaning world records guys.

It might be assumed that in this desert location will leave competitors gasping for breath. We’ll find out why certain natural and technological elements mean this may not be the case…

Situated on the Qatar coastline, Doha is a desert climate.

We’ll find out what the situation is with the competitors and local climate. Then, why thanks to technological innovation and a relatively light atmosphere, Doha may become the ideal venue to enable record breaking across the board…

‘We’ll find out what the situation is with competitors and local climate. Then, why thanks to technological innovation and a relatively light atmosphere, Doha may become the ideal venue to enable record breaking across the board…’

 

Let’s build it up guys…

Competition Is In: Why Is Doha Going To Be An Extra Special Games?

‘Both Kendra Harrison and Aries Merritt are current world record holders in the women’s and men’s 100 m and 110 m Hurdles, respectively. Both races will be hotly contended, as both of these athletes have been bested in 2019.

‘Christian Taylor and Will Claye of the USA have each jumped over 18 metres this year and will provide a famous battle in the Triple Jump – both aiming to beat Jonathan Edward’s record of 18.29 m set in 2015.’

‘As for runners?’

‘With a new track laid… these guys will be trying to break records set by USAIN BOLT!’

‘Before Usain Bolt the 100m record dropped from ten seconds flat in the mid-1800s to 9.80 in the early 2000’s – so 0.20 seconds in around 150 years. Usain Bolt dropped this record another 0.20 in 1.5 years! Into distance – that’s about 2 meters… phenomenally fast!’

‘The two big races are the 100 and 200 metres, in which Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles are trying to break the World Records, respectively. Also, there’s keen British interest with Dina Asha-Smith running 100 and 200 metres – poised to come in the top 3… hopefully! She is expected to at least beat the British record … again!’

Jamie Banasik, Founder & Meteorologist

 

Doha…

From Sep 27th to Oct 6th 2019, Doha will be welcoming 3,500 athletes from 205 countries for the IIAF World Athletics Championships (IAAF WAC; a.k.a. World Championships in Athletics; WCA). Qatar will also be hosting approx. 10,000 international guests, 30,000 spectators and over 2,000 media personnel.

It’s going to be intense!

 

Hot Prospects

Doha is a desert climate. In all of Sep-Oct, a day with rain has been observed just 11 times in the past 50 years!

As dry as the weather is, the air actually tends to be humid, especially by night.

Within the sultry grasp of the Persian Gulf, where Sep-Oct sea surface temperatures tend to be in the low 30s °C.

Moisture evaporates from this warm sea each day and envelops Qatar’s coastal lands.

Approaching dry desert air prevents rain, but not enough to make daily-average humidity comfortable.

It’s still scorching daytime temperature highs (see Figure 1) – no wonder events for IAAF WAC 2019 are scheduled no earlier than 16:15.

Graph showing climate information for daytime temperatures maximums in Doha, Qatar during the IAAF WAC 2019 event dates. There is a high likelihood of air temperatures reaching least the operational temperature of the internal human body (37°C), at which any form of exercise is very dangerous to health

Figure 1: Graph showing climate information for daytime temperatures maximums in Doha, Qatar during the IAAF WAC 2019 event dates. There is a high likelihood of air temperatures reaching least the operational temperature of the internal human body (37°C), at which any form of exercise is very dangerous to health.

 

Technical Temps

Typically, temperatures are dropping steadily from mid-afternoon onward, from the high 30s or low 40s °C at 15:00 to the mid-30s by 18:00 and then low-30s by 21:00. On the flipside, relative humidity usually rises from 30-40% (relatively comfortable) to 60-70% (uncomfortable) during this time.

According to the Canadian humidex method, this equates to a reduction in how hot it feels from the mid-high 40s to the mid-high 30s.

So overall, conditions become less dangerous for exercising in, but are still far from ideal for athletic performance. For example, research has shown that professional runners are at their most efficient or comfortable when air temperatures are a mere 6°C or 7°C!

Adapt to Thrive!

Here’s where technology steps in to save the day.

The Khalifa International Stadium will be equipped with a state-of-the-art cooling system, which is expected to regulate the air temperature to 24-26°C. It also has the benefit of blocking out the wind, which often reaches speeds of 10-20 mph between mid-afternoon and late evening.

These lower temperatures and removed risk of a headwind will make fast running times far more achievable than they would have been otherwise. This increases the potential for new 100 m or 200 m records to be set (beating Bolt’s WR is going to be as challenging as his surname makes it sound!). There should be some strong results in the hurdles too.

The longer running events are less well-favoured for fast times, as the temperature will still be quite a way above the optimum for prolonged exertion. That’s not to say that new records are out of the question, though. Acclimatisation is a huge aspect of athletic performance.

 

So, what about the other athletic disciplines? Well, when looking away from the running disciplines, a very different aspect of the weather comes into play…

Jumpers & Throwers Feeling the Pressure?

The atmosphere pushes down on all of us – this is known as the air pressure. It varies with temperature and the passing of weather systems (e.g. an area of low pressure), but on average, the more atmosphere there is above a point, the higher the air pressure upon it.

For example, if Athens (70-338 m above sea level) and Doha were at the same temperature and beneath identical weather systems, the air pressure at Athens would be 2-3% lower than at Doha.

The majority of IAC WAC venues have, however, been in cities that are at or very near to sea level. This is due to the largest cities being favoured (usually capital cities), which tend to be by the sea due to the inherent trade benefits that helped them to develop.

This means that typical temperatures and weather patterns are more important. Seaside cities have annual mean sea level air pressures ranging from 1002 to 1020 mb. Doha’s annual mean is at the low end of this range; just 1006 mb.

This doesn’t just mean there’s more air pressing down on airborne athletes or objects like javelins; higher air pressure also compresses the air, increasing its density, hence how much drag it exerts on something travelling through it.

For this reason, it’s official practice to mark javelin throw distances with an ‘A’ for advantage when the competition is being held at high altitude.

 

The Final Score

Thanks to technological innovation and a relatively light atmosphere, Doha may see competitors challenging national, championship and world records in most of the disciplines!

Here’s to a very exciting IAAF WAC 2019!

 

James Peacock MSc

Head Meteorologist at MetSwift

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