Press-Republican

Columns

March 9, 2012

Climate change threatens rinks

This morning, as I do most mornings once the city puts up the boards for my local outdoor rink, usually in late November, I checked the condition of the ice.

It's been a few years since I retired from making our own backyard rink due to the increasing ratio of work versus usage. So the rink two blocks away in the park in front of the museum on the Plains of Abraham is the focus.

And on this sunny and cold early March morning, the state of the freshly watered ice is deemed to be good to excellent.

Despite the glorious conditions today, my ice-observer sense tells me the rink is doomed and likely will not survive the week, what with above-freezing temperatures and rain in the forecast. If that is the case, the 2011-12 outdoor skating season in Quebec City will be remembered as better than average, with no major damaging melts and a relatively early pre-Christmas start.

In other parts of the land, the outdoor skating this winter has not been so hot — or cold, to be more precise. Indeed, the troubled state of the skating season has been in the news lately. Researchers at McGill and Concordia universities in Montreal released a study showing that outdoor rinks in many parts of Canada may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to greenhouse gases and climate change.

This conclusion may seem sadly obvious to people in mostly the western sweep of the country where this winter has been little more than a concept.

The study provides evidence that "the observed warming of winter temperatures in Canada has had a deleterious effect on the outdoor skating season. Many locations across the country have seen significant decreases in the length of the OSS (outdoor skating season), as measured by the number of cold winter days conducive to the creation of rink ice."

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