This could be the first year that the Rideau Canal Skateway will not open
An Ottawa tradition that has endured for nearly 50 years may be on hold this year thanks to warmer-than-usual weather.
The Rideau Canal Skateway is a 4.7-mile (7.8-kilometer) track that is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week during a season that typically runs from January through March.
On average, the canal is open 50 days a year. The longest season was 1971-1972 at 95 days.
Length of skating season in days on the Rideau Canal according to NCC. Graphic created by Cheryl Santa Maria for The Weather Network.
The skateway did not open for the 2022-2023 season, and if it remains closed, it will be the first full season closure since the skateway opened in 1971.
More warm weather on the way
Temperatures are expected to rise again next week, with daily highs above freezing.
January was also a warmer month than usual, further compounding problems for the channel. The extended cold spells it took to freeze the ice haven’t manifested themselves this year, at least not yet.
“Although not all of the polar air has returned to Siberia, the frigid air that remains over northern Canada will struggle to descend in eastern Canada over the next few weeks,” Weather Network meteorologist Kevin Mackay said.
But not all hope is lost, he says.
“There is potential for a return to the freezer for the last week of the month.”
A message appearing on the Rideau Canal Skateway website as of February 10, 2023.
Technology to the rescue?
The National Capital Commission (NCC) is working on a joint project that could extend the skating season regardless of the weather, the CBC reports. In the future, interventions could start as early as December, weeks before the start of the season.
Potential innovations include a “slush cannon” that shoots water into the air that turns to slush when it hits the channel, creating a layer on top of the ice. A machine called a “thermosyphon” could be used to cool the water beneath the ice.
Rideau Canal File Photo (Mark Spowart/Getty Images)
“As long as we’re below … the threshold, between minus five and minus 10, some of these technologies can help,” Shawn Kenny, a professor in Carleton University’s Department of Civil Engineering and the Environment who works with the NCC, told CBC.
“But basically on a large scale like this, where we’re eight kilometers long, we really like to have minus 10 to minus 15 weather to help us.”
Thumbnail created by Cheryl Santa Maria using Canva Pro graphics.