Much like poutine, politeness, and Paul , pond hockey is a proud Canadian institution. From Bonavista to Bella Bella, Canadians grow up waiting for the ice to freeze and then gliding onto those newly formed ponds to play our favourite sport. Canadians often jump at the chance to get outside and enjoy the sunny, crisp winter days.
But as we have learned over 50 years tracking the health of lakes at IISD Experimental Lakes Area—the world’s freshwater laboratory—climate change is affecting Canada’s winter lakes and ponds. And the next 50 years are likely to see further change.
And that spells bad news for pond hockey fans. Here are just five reasons why.
1) Winters Are Starting Later IISD-ELA has been tracking the date lakes freeze over since 1969 in northwestern Ontario. We call this special day “ice-on.” On average, this ice-on date has been getting later and later—in fact, by 1.66 days per decade.
That means pond hockey season has been starting later each year.
2) Lakes Are Frozen for Less Time Guess what IISD-ELA found when we compared how long lakes were iced over during winter in 1969 versus now? Since 1969, lakes have been frozen over for an average of 18 days fewer (at a rate of 4.24 days per decade). And it is expected that the number of days of pond ice will continue to decrease if we don’t curb greenhouse gas emissions. Future climate scenarios that consider backyard ice conditions show that the number of days you can skate outside will decline by 19% in Calgary alone from 2015 to 2090. Yep, that means almost two and half weeks less of pond hockey per year in our kids’ lifetimes.
3) Winters Are Warmer Remember those already vanished 16.7 days of ice? Well, according to the Climate Atlas, if emissions levels do not change, winters will get even shorter—by 10–20 days by 2050! This means in most people’s current lifetimes, no matter where you live the winters you experience will be milder than those of your parents and grandparents. This spells terrible news for pond hockey fans, but also for flora, fauna, and millions of people who depend on lakes and cold weather for their lives and livelihoods.
4) More Rain, Rain, Rain Thanks to climate change, we expect more winter rain than in decades past. Less dependable snowfalls, or events where rain falls after snowing and freezes, may lead to fewer events where rain falls after snowing and freezes and the increased flow of water in streams and rivers—all contributing to poor quality or unsafe ice conditions. Good ice safety practices will become ever more important to practicing our traditions of pond skating, backyard rinks, and pond hockey.
5) Winter Weather Whiplash As temperatures and precipitation levels swing between extremes throughout the winter, it may feel as if you have “weather whiplash”! One minute, milder weather may risk melting ice, while the next minute, temperatures will be way colder than you expect. Both extremes will affect your beloved pond hockey: warmer temperatures can cause thaws and slush, while below-normal temperatures bring increased risks of hypothermia and frostbite.
Adapted by Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Associations (CHA) from an original article from IISD Experimental Lakes Area