New research on the relationship between climate change and winter drowning has found that the number of northern hemisphere

New research on the relationship between climate change and winter drowning has found that the number of drowning deaths is increasing dramatically in regions with warmer winters.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One, looks at drownings in 10 countries in the northern hemisphere. The largest number of drownings occurred when the air temperature was just below freezing, between -5 ° C and 0 ° C (between 23 ° F and 32 ° F).

Some of the steep increases have occurred in areas where indigenous customs and livelihoods require more time on the ice. In the countries studied, children under the age of nine, adolescents, and adults between the ages of 15 and 39 were most likely to have drowning accidents in the winter.

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Sapna Sharma, an assistant professor of biology at York University in Toronto and lead author of the study, said that people have not always realized how global warming increases the risks that come with winter traditions such as skiing, ice fishing and snowmobiles.

“I think there is a disconnect between climate change and local and day-to-day impacts,” Sharma said. “If you think about winter climate change, you think of polar bears and ice sheets, but not these activities that are simply ingrained in our culture.”

Sharma said these ingrained habits can lead to a false sense of security.

“The temperature may be below minus 20 degrees Celsius today, tomorrow and the weekend, but last week the temperature was 15 degrees Celsius,” he said. “Well, we could have forgotten as individuals that last week it was warm and sunny on Tuesday, but the snow was not forgotten.”

The absence of sustainable colds, which leads to more freeze-thaw events, is critical. Every time the ice melts and freezes, it weakens a little and can stay that way for the rest of the cold season.

“Moderate temperatures mean that the ice is not as thick or solid as it would otherwise be,” said Robert Macleman, professor of geography and environmental studies at Wilfred Laurier University, who was not involved in the study. “Then people go without realizing that the ice has rot.”

The authors compared death records and temperature data for Canada, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Finland, Russia, Sweden, Italy, Japan, and the northern United States. They analyzed about 4,000 total records over a 26-year period, although the time period varies depending on the data available in each country.

The researchers found that more drownings occur in colder climates in the spring, when the daily low temperatures rise too dramatically to support stable ice structures. At the same time, the warmer temperatures make spending time outside more enjoyable, which means more people are spending time on the ice.

Northern Canada and Alaska have higher drowning rates, even in extremely cold temperatures. Sharma said it is possible that people there spend more time on the ice. Indigenous communities near the Arctic depend on waterways for food and transportation, which means more time on ice in the winter and an increased risk of drowning.

The coronavirus pandemic could put more people at risk.

 

Sharma said, “If this winter is like this summer, a lot of people spent time in a country field in Ontario because we couldn’t go anywhere.”

She said snow that has standing water, sleet, or holes in the surface is generally not safe.

“Snow cover is tough,” Sharma said. “People think there is a lot of snow on the ice, and that the ice should be thick,” but the snow can also act as a buffer, causing the ice to melt more quickly.

“We need, as individuals, to adapt our decision-making,” he added, focusing on how changing winters affect rivers, lakes and streams. “It may not be as safe now as it was 30 or 40 years ago.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

has found that the number of drowning deaths is increasing dramatically in regions with warmer winters.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One, looks at drownings in 10 countries in the northern hemisphere. The largest number of drownings occurred when the air temperature was just below freezing, between -5 ° C and 0 ° C (between 23 ° F and 32 ° F).

Some of the steep increases have occurred in areas where indigenous customs and livelihoods require more time on the ice. In the countries studied, children under the age of nine, adolescents, and adults between the ages of 15 and 39 were most likely to have drowning accidents in the winter.

Subscribe to the The Morning newsletter from The New York Times

Sapna Sharma, an assistant professor of biology at York University in Toronto and lead author of the study, said that people have not always realized how global warming increases the risks that come with winter traditions such as skiing, ice fishing and snowmobiles.

“I think there is a disconnect between climate change and local and day-to-day impacts,” Sharma said. “If you think about winter climate change, you think of polar bears and ice sheets, but not these activities that are simply ingrained in our culture.”

Sharma said these ingrained habits can lead to a false sense of security.

“The temperature may be below minus 20 degrees Celsius today, tomorrow and the weekend, but last week the temperature was 15 degrees Celsius,” he said. “Well, we could have forgotten as individuals that last week it was warm and sunny on Tuesday, but the snow was not forgotten.”

The absence of sustainable colds, which leads to more freeze-thaw events, is critical. Every time the ice melts and freezes, it weakens a little and can stay that way for the rest of the cold season.

“Moderate temperatures mean that the ice is not as thick or solid as it would otherwise be,” said Robert Macleman, professor of geography and environmental studies at Wilfred Laurier University, who was not involved in the study. “Then people go without realizing that the ice has rot.”

The authors compared death records and temperature data for Canada, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Finland, Russia, Sweden, Italy, Japan, and the northern United States. They analyzed about 4,000 total records over a 26-year period, although the time period varies depending on the data available in each country.

The researchers found that more drownings occur in colder climates in the spring, when the daily low temperatures rise too dramatically to support stable ice structures. At the same time, the warmer temperatures make spending time outside more enjoyable, which means more people are spending time on the ice.

Northern Canada and Alaska have higher drowning rates, even in extremely cold temperatures. Sharma said it is possible that people there spend more time on the ice. Indigenous communities near the Arctic depend on waterways for food and transportation, which means more time on ice in the winter and an increased risk of drowning.

The coronavirus pandemic could put more people at risk.

Sharma said, “If this winter is like this summer, a lot of people spent time in a country field in Ontario because we couldn’t go anywhere.”

She said snow that has standing water, sleet, or holes in the surface is generally not safe.

“Snow cover is tough,” Sharma said. “People think there is a lot of snow on the ice, and that the ice should be thick,” but the snow can also act as a buffer, causing the ice to melt more quickly.

“We need, as individuals, to adapt our decision-making,” he added, focusing on how changing winters affect rivers, lakes and streams. “It may not be as safe now as it was 30 or 40 years ago.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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