Skating rink
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Outdoor skating rinks studied for climate change research

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Hundreds of people across North America have signed up their outdoor skating rinks to be used as data sources for a research project on climate change.

More than 400 rinks have been registered on rinkwatch.org since the website launched at the beginning of January. Rinkwatch.org invites people with a backyard or neighbourhood rink to create a profile, adding the name and location of their rink. Registered users are then asked to return to the rink once a week to record what days they were able to skate.

Led by Wilfrid Laurier University professors Robert McLeman and Colin Robertson, and Master of Science student Haydn Lawrence, the research project will track the results until the ice melts completely. When next winter comes, they’ll start all over again.

By tracking what’s going on with skating conditions across the continent, McLeman says they will, by default, be tracking what’s happening with winter climate trends. According to a report by the CBC, this project is modeled on the efforts of birdwatchers who have been conducting backyard bird counts for decades.

“The backyard rink is a tradition—one that future generations may not get to experience because of the damaging effects of climate change,” said McLeman in a report by the university. Winters are undoubtedly different than they were decades ago, and the condition of their outdoor rink gives people a personal connection to these changes.

So far, this citizen-driven project has surpassed the researchers’ expectations: “We’re amazed at the response we’ve had so far,” McLeman said, adding, “The more participants we have, the more data we are able to gather.”

To register your rink and contribute to the research, head to rinkwatch.org.