News Local

Recent global climate changes wreaking havoc

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

A group of friends walk out onto the ice over Little Lake in Barrie, Tuesday. The trio said that the ice seemed safe to them. MARK WANZEL PHOTO

A group of friends walk out onto the ice over Little Lake in Barrie, Tuesday. The trio said that the ice seemed safe to them. MARK WANZEL PHOTO

In years gone by, Barrie’s founding fathers hacked ice out of Kempenfelt Bay in large blocks and shipped it by train to America.

Although this generation of Barrie residents may not remember (although they were still selling Barrie’s ice in the late 1930s), most would remember skating on the bay in December and snowbanks at the side of the road above your heads.

But recent global climate changes — causing mega storms like Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina in the south, flooding in the Philippines, and drought causing fire storms in Australia — are wreaking havoc with our weather patterns, too.

It’s just not as cold as it used to be.

A Tiny Township man died after trying to cross Penetanguishene Bay, 45 minutes north of Barrie, when he fell into a hole in the ice, Monday night.

According to Southern Georgian Bay OPP, 19-year-old Dale Bradshaw was pulled from the North West Basin harbour, near Peek-A-Boo Trail, without vital signs by Tiny Township volunteer firefighters Tuesday morning after failing to meet friends a few hours earlier.

Four ice fishers on Cooks Bay nearly drowned Saturday night when ice they were standing on — about 400 metres off Beach Road in Gilford — collapsed beneath them.

The South Simcoe police marine unit was assisted by York Regional Police and Georgina firefighters. Paramedics and an air ambulance were on standby.

All four people were rescued. Two were taken to hospital to be treated for hypothermia. One rescuer who was also treated for hypothermia at the scene.

“It’s clearly tragic, but nobody should be near the water, because although sometimes you can be seduced into thinking there’s ice, it hasn’t had time to form yet,” said Dave Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

“With the thaw we just had, with 70 good hours above freezing on the weekend, it was like winter vanished before our eyes,” he said.

Phillips said tracking the warmth of any given winter is done by counting the number of days with freezing temperatures. By adding the highs and lows of each day and dividing by two and then adding all the minus temperatures together, meteorologists can gauge how cold a winter was.

He said we’re currently dealing with 115 freezing degree days, instead of the 300 we would have traditionally have had.

Last winter, even though the water froze much later than it did in 2011, Phillips said there were still 146 freezing days by mid-January.

Phillips said he isn’t surprised the ice hasn’t frozen yet, as 2012 was one of the warmest on record, leading to unseasonably warm Great Lakes temperatures last autumn.

“It was like bath-water temperatures in some areas. So we knew two things going into the fall. If we got cold air we’d get a lot of snow, which we didn’t. And eventually the lakes will cool off, but they haven’t done that to any great degree yet,” he said.

Last year, two of Barrie’s ice watchers, Jenny and Bill MacDonald, who have monitored Kempenfelt Bay’s duration of lake ice, had determined they are shorter than in previous years.

The MacDonalds found that during the early days of record keeping — going back to the 1900s — there was an average of 125.5 ice days.

During the last decade of the 20th century, it dropped to 97.4 days.

The last nine years have come in around 95.8 days.

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