On thin ice: Scientists study safety of skating on urban storm-water ponds

EDMONTON -- Mark Loewen and his research team spent the last two winters hauling around a radar machine and drilling through ice as children and adults raced around on skates and fired slapshots.

See Full Article

The Edmonton scientists now are crunching data in what Loewen, a University of Alberta civil and environmental engineering professor, believes is the first comprehensive study of ice on city storm-water ponds.

So far the study has confirmed what most municipalities already know -- ice thickness on small suburban lakes is not as certain as ice that forms on natural water bodies. It's constantly changing as runoff and drainage water flows through the ponds all year.

"A lot of time the ice covers can be safe," said Loewen. "But if they're safe on a Monday, that doesn't mean they're safe on a Friday.

"And it's that unpredictability that is the cause for concern."

Water moving through the ponds can be warmer and turbulent and melt ice faster, said Loewen. Even if water has frozen all the way to the bottom of a shallow section, channels of water can still cut through it.

Another contributing factor is road salt, he said. Depending on how much is applied to nearby roads and how much runs off into ponds, it can also speed up thawing.

He understands why people want to lace up for these ponds. There are about 160 in Edmonton -- most in newer neighbourhoods right outside residents' back doors.

But the ice is too iffy.

"It's just too complicated a problem, which is why you're not supposed to be on the ice cover at all."

The City of Edmonton requested the study, Loewen said, since skating on storm-water ponds is somewhat of a touchy issue. Signs posted at city ponds warn against skating on them, but many people do it anyway.

Just two weeks ago, park rangers fined a man $100 after he shovelled off and flooded a section of a pond behind his family's home. Because there's no specific bylaw against skating on the ponds, the ticket was for modifying land in a way that could cause injury.

Oil-refinery worker Brian Tomlinson said his family has skated on the storm-water pond in the past without trouble. When he told his kids that it was off limits this year, his three-year-old daughter burst into tears.

Tomlinson, who says there's nothing more Canadian that playing pond hockey, plans to fight the ticket in court next month.

It's the first fine related to a storm-pond rink that the city has issued in the last few years, said Greg Komarniski, a city park ranger.

The pond behind Tomlinson's home is a bit different than others, he said. Called Poplar Lake, the pond is fenced off and marked with a sign warning of thin ice. It's also an environmentally sensitive area.

In this case, Komarniski said, rangers responded to a complaint and decided to give Tomlinson a ticket rather than a warning.

Wendy Laskosky with the city's drainage department said warning letters are sometimes sent to residents in neighbourhoods where staff find rinks on storm-water ponds.

As the city grows and more ponds are built, skating on them will become more of a concern, she suggested.

"We're concerned for public safety and we're not sure where the ice is thin."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Spiders eat more than humanity’s total weight every year: study

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Spiders have been known to carry some of the world’s deadliest venoms, eat their mates, produce silk strong than steel, and even grow the size of a small puppy. As if all that isn’t terrifying enough, new research suggests the global spider population could theoretically devour every human on earth in a single year. Source
  • Samsung hopes Galaxy S8 will reinvigorate company after combustible Note 7 [Photos] [Video]

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Samsung seems to be playing it safe with its first major smartphone since the embarrassing recall of its fire-prone Note 7. The Galaxy S8 features a larger display than its predecessor, the Galaxy S7, and sports a voice assistant intended to rival Siri and Google Assistant. Source
  • Windows 10 update will bring 3-D, game tools and doodling

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A major update to Microsoft's Windows 10 system will start reaching consumers and businesses on April 11, offering 3-D drawing tools, game-broadcasting capabilities and better ways to manage web browsing. This "Creators Update" also aims to make future updates less disruptive. Source
  • Samsung hopes Galaxy S8 will reinvigorate company after combustible Note 7 [Photos]

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Samsung seems to be playing it safe with its first major smartphone since the embarrassing recall of its fire-prone Note 7. The Galaxy S8 features a larger display than its predecessor, the Galaxy S7, and sports a voice assistant intended to rival Siri and Google Assistant. Source
  • House hearing on climate science focuses on name calling

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Climate science and politics too often reverts into name calling and bullying, which can get in the way of real work. That was the only thing House Science Committee members, three scientists who often clash with mainstream science and a prominent climate scientist could agree to at a contentious hearing Wednesday. Source
  • Windows update will bring 3D, game tools and less clutter

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A major update to Microsoft's Windows 10 system will start reaching consumers and businesses on April 11, offering 3-D drawing tools, game-broadcasting capabilities and better ways to manage your web browsing. This "Creators Update" also aims to make future updates less disruptive. Source
  • Samsung's Galaxy S8 phone aims to dispel the Note 7 debacle

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Samsung seems to be playing it safe with its first major smartphone since the embarrassing recall of its fire-prone Note 7. The Galaxy S8 features a larger display than its predecessor, the Galaxy S7, and sports a voice assistant intended to rival Siri and Google Assistant. Source
  • How North Korea hides massive nuclear bomb tests

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TOKYO -- Let's say you're North Korea and you have this nuclear device you really want to test. And let's say you'd rather some of the more sensitive details remain private. Physicists, geologists, imagery analysts, some of the best militaries in the world, monitoring posts set up by non-proliferation organizations -- beating the technology arrayed against you will be no mean feat. Source
  • The argument for robot 'personhood'

    Tech & Science CBC News
    What are the rights of a robot? Does it have any? Should it? It's a question few of us have given much thought to, outside of a Friday night curled up in front of a science fiction movie. Source
  • Netherlands town installs traffic lights for pedestrians walking and texting

    Tech & Science CBC News
    It's dubbed "wexting" — walking while texting. So-called distracted walking can certainly be annoying, and some argue it's a public safety hazard. Now, a small town in the Netherlands is testing a novel approach to address those safety concerns. Source