Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2020CO153B

Evaluating the Future of Colorado's Outdoor Ice Rinks in a Changing Climate

Institute: Colorado
Year Established: 2020 Start Date: 2020-03-01 End Date: 2021-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $4,987 Total Non-Federal Funds: Not available

Principal Investigators: Steven Fassnacht

Abstract: While Coloradans have historically used frozen lakes and outdoor ice rinks to recreate outdoors throughout winter months, these water resources could be impacted by climate change. Less naturally frozen rinks could increase energy demands and consumer costs to maintain indoor facilities and disconnect Coloradans from water dependent winter recreation. Research suggests that North American freshwater lakes are susceptible to reduced ice cover and Canadian outdoor ice-skating seasons could be significantly reduced by increased air temperatures. This study will rely on long-term meteorological data and robust modeling efforts to predict the future viability of Colorado’s outdoor ice rinks. To accomplish this goal, this study will (1) forecast climate change in select Colorado communities, (2) incorporate this forecasted data into lake ice models, and (3) explain model results and uncertainties. Specific Colorado communities have been identified as representative winter recreation destinations based on their elevation, latitude, mountain range, skating venue, and climate. Online databases will be used to compile historical meteorological data from each location. These data will be used to recalibrate a climate model which will forecast changes in winter temperature and precipitation using a pseudo global warming simulation. Such forecasted data will be used in a lake ice model to predict changes to each location’s outdoor ice-skating season. The results of this study will directly inform planning and management efforts related to outdoor ice-skating in Colorado. Additionally, the pseudo global warming simulation will provide specific communities with insight regarding the outlook for other outdoor winter activities.