Will this be the first time the Rideau Canal Skateway will not open? The prognosis doesn’t look good

Experts commissioned by the NCC assume that the average temperatures in Ottawa will continue to rise and the freezing cycles will shorten.  (CBC/NCC - photo credit)

Experts commissioned by the NCC assume that the average temperatures in Ottawa will continue to rise and the freezing cycles will shorten. (CBC/NCC – photo credit)

An Environment Canada weather forecaster is warning skaters anxiously waiting for the Rideau Canal to open that they may have to find somewhere else to eat this winter.

Steven Flisfeder, alert forecaster for the national weather agency, said temperatures will rise well above the seasonal average over the next week and the rest of February isn’t looking much better.

“So [it’s] doesn’t look good in terms of any kind of freezing, especially for long periods of time,” he said.

“We expect a return to near-normal temperatures at the end of February [or] Early March, but until then seasonal norms are rising as spring is coming, so [it’s] it doesn’t look like there’s any freezing to be seen.”



This winter has been warmer than usual in Ottawa, and Flisfeder said temperatures across the province were higher than normal in January.

“All of January for the entire province of Ontario was about four to six degrees above what it should have been,” he said.

While Ottawa has seen some bitterly cold days, Flisfeder said those low temperatures didn’t last long enough to create ideal ice conditions.

“Once we get those really cold days, we go straight back to the positive side,” he said. “So it’s been a very unusual winter in that regard.”

“Weather forecasting is a challenge for us this year,” said Bruce Devine, senior manager of facilities and programs at the National Capital Commission (NCC).

Nonetheless, Devine said NCC still hopes temperatures will drop and the skateway will open.

“[But] we are very optimistic. We still think we’ll be able to open a section of the skate track and it’s only a matter of time,” he said.

If that happens, it will be the latest opening day since skaters first stepped onto the ice in 1971.

turning to technology

Shawn Kenny, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental at Carleton University, is working with the NCC on a collaborative project looking at ways to improve ice build and extend the skate season despite warmer temperatures.

They focus on interventions that could be taken as early as December.



One of the innovations tested is the “slush gun,” a machine that shoots water into the air so that it falls into the canal as slush, covering the top layer of ice. Researchers hope the machine will act as a catalyst to speed up the freezing process.

Researchers will also test a “thermosyphon” used to cool the water beneath the top layer of ice. The machine extracts heat from the water and releases it into the air above.

Kenny said some of these technologies could help, but what’s really needed is consistently lower temperatures.

“As long as we’re below … the threshold, between minus five and minus 10, some of these technologies can help,” he said.

“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.”


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