People ice skating

In parts of Canada and the northern U.S., winter means ice skating. Neighbors gather at frozen ponds or build homemade rinks in backyards and parks.

“All the kids come by, and some of the adults as well, play a little hockey, just go for a skate, go inside for hot chocolates,” says Robert McLeman of Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario.

He says these skaters can see the effects of warmer winters firsthand. So he and his colleagues launched a website called RinkWatch. It invites people with backyard rinks to share their location, the date, and the skating conditions.

By combining that data with climate models, the researchers can make predictions about the future of outdoor skating. For example, McLeman says Toronto and Montreal may lose 34% of their skating days within 70 years.

He says not only are winters getting warmer, but they’re also starting to become more variable.

“So you get a lot of year-to-year swings in temperature that you never saw, say, in the 1950s and ’60s,” he says.

He hopes that by connecting global warming to a favorite winter pastime, RinkWatch will motivate skaters to fight climate change.

“To protect the outdoor skating experience really means tackling the root causes of climate change,” he says.

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Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Climate Science, Snow & Ice