“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.”
The lack of sustained cold, which leads to more freeze-thaw events, is crucial. Each time ice thaws and refreezes, it gets a little weaker — and it can stay that way for the remainder of the cold season.
“Milder temperatures mean that the ice is not as thick, or not as solid as it would otherwise be,” said Robert McLeman, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Wilfrid Laurier University who was not involved in the study. “And so people are going out onto it and not realizing that the ice is rotten.”
The authors compared death records and temperature data in Canada, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Finland, Russia, Sweden, Italy, Japan and the northern United States. They analyzed about 4,000 total records over a span of 26 years, though the time period varied depending on the available data in each country.
The researchers found that more cold-weather drownings occur in spring, when daily low temperatures increase too much to support stable ice structures. At the same time, those warmer temperatures make it more enjoyable to spend time outdoors, meaning more people are spending time on ice.
Northern Canada and Alaska have higher rates of drowning, even in very cold temperatures. Sharma said that is probably because people there simply spend more time on the ice. Indigenous communities close to the Arctic rely on waterways for food and transportation, which means more time on the ice in winter and an increased risk of drowning.
The coronavirus pandemic could also put more people at risk.
“If this winter is anything like this summer was,” Sharma said, “a lot of people spent time in cottage country in Ontario because we just can’t go anywhere.”
She said that ice with sitting water, slush or holes in the surface was generally unsafe.
“Snow cover is when it gets tricky,” Sharma said. “People think there’s so much snow on the ice, the ice must be thick,” but snow can also act as insulation, melting the ice more quickly.
“We need to, as individuals, adapt our decision-making,” she added, and focus on how changing winters affect rivers, lakes and streams. “It may not be as safe now as it was 30 years or 40 years ago.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
© 2020 The New York Times Company
Ice storms in Russia’s Far East prompts state of emergency
Freezing rain began pummelling Vladivostok overnight Thursday after a cyclone carrying hot air met an anticyclone carrying cold air
Freak ice storms following an abnormal weather phenomenon has left 150,000 people without water and electricity in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok and prompted a state of emergency.
The exceptional weather brought down cables and trees with the government of the Primorsky region declaring a state of emergency.
„The situation with the electricity supply remains very difficult — the destruction is widespread,” the regional administration’s deputy head Elena Parkhamenko said.
She said it could take „several days” to restore power.
Freezing rain began pummelling the city of some 600,000 people overnight Thursday after a cyclone carrying hot air met an anticyclone carrying cold air, Boris Kubay, a local weather service official said.
He said in some places the resulting ice was 12 millimetres thick — something not observed in the region in 30 years.
Photos and videos published by local authorities and on social media showed everything from apartment buildings to road signs to public transport covered in ice.
Video footage from a security camera showed a man moving away from his car at the last second as he was cleaning ice from its windshield before a block came crashing down from the side of a building.
Thousands without power in Russia’s icy far east after heavy snow
People walk past trees covered with ice after freezing rain in Vladivostok
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Thousands of residents in Russia’s far eastern Primorsky region were without access to power on Friday after a state of emergency was introduced amid subzero cold after heavy snowfall.
The electricity supply may not return for several days, but „a detailed recovery plan has been drawn up, agreed together with the regional authorities”, Deputy Energy Minister Evgeny Grabchak said, without elaborating, according to news agencies.
In the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, frozen trees were strewn across roads and power lines were encrusted with ice. One video showed a row of cars encased in ice.
A state of emergency was introduced in the Primorsky region on Thursday, the local authority said, to mobilise all resources for the fight to protect people from the severe cold.
It said two days of rain and snowfall had formed a coating of ice on wires and trees up to 12 millimetres (half an inch) thick, something not seen in the region for 30 years.
The navy and army were involved in trying to limit the damage and temporary accommodation facilities had been set up.
„Medical care is being provided for patients, but the lack of electricity and water supply has changed the work format,” regional health minister Anastasia Khudchenko said on Friday.
She said generators were being installed at some hospitals and bottled water deliveries were among the emergency measures.
(Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Mark Heinrich)