Measuring Climate Change Via Backyard Skating Rinks

Since its launch earlier this month, the Web site Rinkwatch has experienced an influx of data from volunteers in Canada and the United States.

What's the Latest Development?

In yet another example of how average citizens are pitching in to help provide scientists with data, Rinkwatch, a Web site that launched January 8, asks people who own backyard skating rinks or work at a park that operates an outdoor rink to identify their location on a map and then "come back on a regular basis to tell us if the weather allowed you to skate or not," says creator and former University of Ottawa professor Robert McLeman. Interest was immediate: In the first week of its existence, the site's server crashed twice, and volunteers -- at least 630 so far across Canada and the northern US -- asked for and got a discussion forum. "[N]ature, climate change, backyard skating, the weather — that’s just gravy for Canadians," McLeman says.

What's the Big Idea?

McLeman was already a leader of a similar nature-based group of projects when he relocated to Waterloo last year and joined the faculty at Wilfrid Laurier University. The project began when he asked a colleague, "Why aren’t we worried about backyard rinks as well as natural ice?" So far the site and accompanying user community have provided useful data, including a "magic number" for the mean temperature needed for ideal outdoor skating: 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius).

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Read it at The Ottawa Citizen

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