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Canadian Site Maps Climate Change...With Skating Rinks

BY Julia Wetherell | Wednesday, January 30 2013

RinkWatch's interactive map, showing unskateable backyard rinks.

Climate change has been measured in rivers and oceans, mapping the rise of the world’s temperature and the impact it holds for wildlife. Now a Canadian website is tracking global warming in the human ecosystem, with an unusual approach: recording the rates at which backyard skating rinks are freezing — or failing to freeze — this winter.

After researchers last year warned that Canada’s beloved pastime — the likes of which produced Wayne Gretzky — will be threatened by increasingly warm winters, RinkWatch was formed by a group at Waterloo’s Wilfrid Laurier University. The site encourages hockey moms and dads to submit data about the skating conditions of their backyard rinks to an interactive map — so far more than 600 participants have contributed, not only from Canada’s southern provinces, but also from northern regions of the US.

Tracking skateable and non-skateable rinks throughout the month of January, the project has so far found significant correlation to median temperatures throughout the country. For Canadian contributors, seeing this data has had a powerful impact, as Robert McLeman, one of RinkWatch’s organizers, told the Ottawa Citzen:

The server crashed twice in the first week from heavy use…He realizes he should have anticipated the popularity: “It’s a story about nature, climate change, backyard skating, the weather — that’s just gravy for Canadians.” This is closer to home than climate stories about glaciers and polar bears.

Due to popular demand, RinkWatch has already added a forum for users looking to share stories and photos, from the statistical to the spiritual.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.