Climate change is making winter ice more dangerous

Climate change is making winter ice more dangerous

New research on the connection between climate change and winter drownings has found that reported drowning deaths are increasing exponentially in areas with warmer winters.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One, looked at drownings in 10 countries in the Northern Hemisphere. The largest number of drownings occurred when air temperatures were just below the freezing point, between minus 5 degrees Celsius and 0 Celsius (between 23 degrees Fahrenheit and 32 Fahrenheit).

Some of the sharpest increases were in areas where Indigenous customs and livelihood require extended time on ice. Across the countries studied, children under the age of 9 and teenagers and adults between 15 and 39 were the most vulnerable to winter drowning accidents.

Sapna Sharma, an associate professor of biology at York University in Toronto and a lead author of the study, said people did not always realize how global warming is increasing the risks that come with winter traditions like skating, ice fishing and snowmobiling.

“I think there’s a disconnect between climate change and the local, everyday impacts,” Sharma said. “If you think about climate change in winter, you’re thinking about polar bears and ice sheets, but not about these activities that are just ingrained in our culture.”

Those ingrained habits can lead to a false sense of security, Sharma said.

“It might be minus 20 Celsius today and tomorrow and the weekend, but last week it was 15 Celsius,” she said. “Well, we might have forgotten as individuals that it was warm and sunny last week on a Tuesday, but the ice didn’t forget.”…

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