Environment Canada’s senior climatologist David Phillips says he is ‘confident’ Ottawa will see a return to skating on the Rideau Canal this year.
Phillips told CTV Morning Live on Tuesday that despite a milder than usual season in the city last month, the coldest months are yet to come.
“The coldest months are January and February. I’m confident you will see some skating on the Rideau,” he said.
“It may be a very short season – but I believe there will be enough cold. I can’t believe it would be shut down two years in a row”
The National Capital Commission pulled the plug on the 2022-23 skating season last February, marking the first time in its 53-year history that the Rideau Canal Skateway did not open once for skating.
Milder than usual temperatures this year during an El Niño year has made many skaters anxious there will be a repeat of last year, which kept the canal’s ice too thin to safely support the thousands of people who visit it every year.
Some local groups held a community vigil for the canal, warning that the impacts of climate change could put future skateway seasons at risk.
A statement by the NCC said preparations for the 54th season of skating are currently underway.
“We have been assessing and preparing for the impacts of climate change on our assets and operations for several years. Last season taught us a great deal about the effects of milder winters on the Skateway,” a spokesperson for the NCC said.
“We continue to test various approaches, such as early ice flooding, that could help build ice faster.”
There is some good news in the forecast for winter enthusiasts this week, with the first flakes of snow in 2024 expected today before cold temperatures move in. Environment Canada is calling for 2 cm of snow on Wednesday, with temperatures set to drop to seasonal levels on Thursday and Friday.
The weather service’s monthly outlook calls for a return to seasonal temperatures in Ottawa this month. The normal temperatures for this time of year are a high of minus 6 C and a low of minus 14 C.
“The big question of course is, is it going to be cold enough to grow ice in Ottawa,” Phillips said.
“In December, you had only half the number of freezing days to grow ice – not a good start.”
Not all residents are as confident, however.
“I wish it could open, but it looks like it’s not going to happen,” said Youannas Tedros, who was walking near the canal this morning.
“It’s one of the most important things in Ottawa. It’s something that defines Ottawa as a whole. When it closed last year, I was like, ‘damn. It closed?!’ It was just sad. Heartbreaking.”
It has become increasingly rare to have the canal open for skating ahead of Jan. 1. In the last 26 years, the median opening date was Jan. 10.
Phillips says, like most Ottawa residents, he is crossing his fingers.
“It’s not necessarily looking and feeling like winter in Ottawa, but I think there is still time,” Phillips said.
“It’s important to Ottawa residents, but it’s also important to all Canadians because it’s one of the things that is very much a part of who we are.”
With files from CTV Morning Live,Ted Raymond and Austin Lee
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