Memories Lost To Climate Change: End Of Outdoor Ice Skating & Ice Fishing May Be Near

"In winter, a section of the Rideau Canal passing through central Ottawa becomes officially the world's largest skating rink."

In Canada, Ottawa's famous Rideau Canal had a shortened skating season this year because of warm weather. Canadian researchers project that because of climate change, the "number of viable ice-flooding days could reach zero by mid-century."

Where I live in Eastern Pennsylvania there are virtually no winter sports this year due to unseasonable warmth and those who do want to ski or snow board, for example, are driving north as far as Vermont.

I have many wonderful childhood memories of flooding our backyard to make a rink. My Dad would let us run the hose out a basement window. All the kids in the neighborhood would pitch in with snow clearing and sweeping and on weekend evenings we'd have a group skate and maybe a game. By mid-March it was lumpy or gone, which was OK because, by then, we were sick of skating and winter in general.

"Backyard Hockey"

Kids who grew up in the South probably have no such memories so why would they care? But, in the Upper Mid-West through New England and all across Canada, outdoor skating will be sorely missed.

When I bring up our warm winter here in PA as a topic of conversation - not even mentioning climate change, mind you - there is a discomfort in their body language. It is simply too unpleasant to continue with the personal cognitive dissonance if the language centers of the brain have to kick in. So they look at the ground and change the subject.

Ice fishing too?
The following excerpts are from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, reporting on an unfortunate ending to a February 2012 ice fishing contest on Lake Winnebago Wisconsin.

No contest: Lake Winnebago swallows sturgeon fishermen's vehicles

By Gitte Laasby of the Journal Sentinel
Feb. 26, 2012

Fishermen participating in the annual Lake Winnebago ice fishing contest over the weekend found themselves instead scouting for their modes of transportation after 36 parked vehicles went through the ice, authorities said Sunday...

Tournament organizers for the Battle on Bago reportedly warned people about parking on the ice Saturday, but some had trouble finding spots elsewhere and parked on the lake anyway. Of about 50 cars parked on the ice, four were submerged more than half way, 18 were partially submerged, and 14 sunk to the top of their wheels, according to the sheriff's department.

"They all started early in the morning. Throughout the day with the sun and everything else, vehicles started to sink," the dispatcher explained.

The ice was about a foot thick.

I lived on the shores of Winnebago for many years. To have the ice rot that badly during the last week of February is not unheard of. But, on average, this is way ahead of time. The sturgeon fishermen are disappointed and probably thinking about what it means.

Actually, the ice was bad much earlier that that: at beginning of February 2012. And that's weird. It goes against all cultural memory. As reported by the local Fox News station on 03 Feb 2012,

With just a week to go before sturgeon spearing starts, normally there are hundreds of ice shacks out on Lake Winnebago, but local fishing clubs say the thin ice is a bad sign that may keep many people off the lake altogether.

The story is similar at other places around the lake.

Ryan Kamba of Chilton made several signs for the Quinney Fishing Club, warning people venturing out on the lake of the dangers of the thin ice. It's a warning many may have never seen before on Lake Winnebago this time of year.

Update in irony.
Below is an aerial photo of the Southeast shore of Lake Winnebago, taken out the window of a commercial airplane. It's a fairly large wind farm and prominent to all within a 10 mile radius. At night the red warning lights fill the horizon from 12 miles away, across the Lake.

Not long after this particular wind farm was commissioned, several other similar ventures were in planning and permitting stages. In came the newly-elected Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his GOP legislative supporters, who in short order proposed increasing the setback requirements beyond what local standards required for wind turbines. Private sector investors bailed on the new windfarm projects, based on the added uncertainty. I leave you to connect the dots to real estate development interests.

wind-turbines-lake-winnebago-wisconsin© John Laumer

Memories Lost To Climate Change: End Of Outdoor Ice Skating & Ice Fishing May Be Near
No one can skate outside in the US Northeast this winter. Even Canada is likely to lose the cultural memory of outdoor skating.