Funding Agency National Capital Commission Canada & Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council
Funding Program Research Contract
Research Team Elham Nakhostin (Post-Doctoral Fellow), Dr. Shawn Kenny (PI), Dr. Jeremy Laliberté, Dr. Derek Mueller, and Dr. Murray Richardson


Every winter since 1971, the National Capital Commission (NCC) has turned the frozen Rideau Canal into the world’s largest skating rink. The Rideau Canal Skateway is a 7.8-km ice path winding through Ottawa, the capital of Canada. The canal itself is a National Historic Site of Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Recent studies predict that, by 2050, winters in Ottawa will be five weeks shorter, with 35% fewer days below -10 °C. Such changes will have serious impacts on the Rideau Canal Skateway.

The NCC and Carleton University are teaming up to look for solutions. This study will do the following:

(1) improve the knowledge base on local weather, ice thickness and snow cover;
(2) assess the Skateway’s vulnerabilities to the effects of climate change (e.g. start of the skating season, ice thickness); and
(3) provide knowledge for the NCC to make informed decisions on building resilience and mitigating climate change effects on the Skateway.

Chaque hiver depuis 1971, la Commission de la capitale nationale (CCN) transforme le canal Rideau gelé en la plus grande patinoire du monde. La patinoire du canal Rideau est une voie de glace de 7,8 km qui traverse Ottawa, la capitale du Canada. Le canal en soi est un lieu historique national du Canada et un site du patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO.

Selon des études récentes, d’ici 2050, les hivers à Ottawa seront plus courts de cinq semaines, et compteront 35% de jours en moins sous -10 °C. De tels changements auront de sérieuses répercussions sur la patinoire du canal Rideau.

La CCN et l’Université Carleton font équipe pour trouver des solutions. L’étude permettra :

(1) d’améliorer la base de connaissances sur les conditions météorologiques locales, l’épaisseur de la glace et la couverture de neige;
(2) d’évaluer les vulnérabilités de la patinoire aux effets des changements climatiques (par exemple, le début de la saison des glaces, l’épaisseur de la glace);
(3) de fournir les connaissances nécessaires pour que la CCN puisse prendre des décisions éclairées pour renforcer la résilience et l’atténuation des effets des changements climatiques sur la patinoire.

Ice thickness measurements along the Rideau Canal Skateway using ground penetrating radar (GPR)

Ice thickness measurements along the Rideau Canal Skateway using ground penetrating radar (GPR)

4 of the research team members including (left to right) (L-R): Dr. Murray Richardson, Frederic Brieger (Ph.D. Candidate DGES Carleton University), Sheida Majidi (Ph.D. Candidate DCEE Carleton University) and Dr. Shawn Kenny

Some member of the project team (L-R): Dr. Murray Richardson, Frederic Brieger (Ph.D. Candidate DGES Carleton University), Sheida Majidi (Ph.D. Candidate DCEE Carleton University) and Dr. Shawn Kenny


Knowledge Translation and Transfer (KTT)

The Rideau Canal Skateway is an iconic venue that attracts both residents of Ottawa, as well as national and international visitors each year with an average of 21,000 per day experiencing the skateway. Since the beginning of this project there has been a concerted effort to engage with the public on the science behind the Rideau Canal Skateway and the adaptation strategies being developed to help inform the National Capital decision making for promoting resilience of the RCS to climate change effects.

  1. 23/03/01 Kenny, Shawn. “Canada’s Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa is closed because of a lack of ice.” Interview by Emma Jacobs, National Public Radio (NPR).
  2. 23/03/02 Kenny, Shawn. “‘A part of winter is missing’: Ottawa grieves over lack of canal ice for skating.“ Interview by Leyland Cecco, The Guardian.
  3. 23/03/01 Kenny, Shawn. “For First Time in More Than 50 Years, No Ice Skating on Ottawa’s Canal”, Interview by Paul Vieira, Wall Street Journal.
  4. 23/03/01 Kenny, Shawn. Live Radio Interview by James Munroe, Afternoon Drive Anchor, CityNews 680.
  5. 23/02/27 “Look at strategies to build the ice early in the season.” Live Radio Interview by Sam Laprade, The Sam Laprade Show, CityNews 101.1.
  6. 23/02/25 Kenny, Shawn. “For the First Time in 52 Years, There’s No Skating Through the Capital”, Interview by Ian Austen, The New York Times, Canada Letter.
  7. 23/02/24 Kenny, Shawn. “Pour la première fois, la patinoire du canal Rideau n’ouvrira pas.” Interviewed by Violette Cantin, Le Devoir.
  8. 23/02/16 “Saving the Rideau Canal Skateway: ‘slush’cannons, robots — and maybe a bit of luck.” Interviewed by Anne-Marie Lemmolo, Ottawa Citizen/Sun.
  9. 23/02/17 Kenny, Shawn. Live Radio Interview, Wake Up with Rob Snow, CityNews Ottawa 101.1FM.
  10. 23/02/17 Kenny, Shawn. “Ottawa’s famous skateway may be closed all winter.” Interviewed by Anna Kusmer, The World.
  11. 23/02/16 Kenny, Shawn. “Canada’s iconic canal ice rink hasn’t frozen this year: What’s going on?”, Euronews Green, Rosie Frost, Agence France-Presse.
  12. 23/02/15. Kenny, Shawn. World’s largest skating rink on thin ice as Canada’s warm winter prevents opening. Agence France-Presse, The Guardian.
  13. 23/02/15 Kenny, Shawn “Hiver trop doux: la patinoire sur le canal Rideau n’ouvrira pas cette année” Agence France-Presse, 24heures.
  14. 23/02/15 Kenny, Shawn “The world’s largest outdoor rink is melting: Canada’s iconic Rideau Canal Skateway may not open this winter for the first time in five decades because mild weather means there’s not enough ice.” Interviewed by David Averre and AFP, Daily Mail.
  15. 23/02/15 “The world’s largest outdoor ice rink is closed due to lack of ice”, Julia Buckley, CNN.
  16. 23/02/14 “Too warm in Canada: world’s largest ice rink may not open”, Interviewed by Mathiew Leiser and Michel Comte, PhysOrg News.
  17. 23/02/10 Kenny, Shawn. Live Radio Interview. Ben O’Hara-Byrne, A Little More Conversation With Ben O’Hara-Byrne, Corus/Global News Radio Network.
  18. 23/02/09 Kenny, Shawn “Will this be the 1st time the Rideau Canal Skateway doesn’t open? The forecast is ‘not looking good’.” Interviewed by Nelly Alberola, CBC Radio-Canada.
  19. 23/02/06 Kenny, Shawn. “Engineering Ottawa’s Rideau Canal skateway for a changing climate.” David Reevely, The Logic.
  20. 23/01/31 Kenny, Shawn, Will the Rideau Canal open at all this year?, Bill Carroll, The Morning Rush with Bill Carroll, 580 CFRA, Ottawa, Canada.
  21. 23/01/10 Kenny, Shawn. “CBC Answers: How do you freeze the world’s largest skating rink?” Interviewed by Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco, CBC Ottawa.
  22. 23/01/13 Kenny, Shawn. “How the Rideau Canal skating season will survive in a warming world.” Isabella O’Malley, The Weather Network.
  23. 22/12/19 Kenny, Shawn. “Ice, Ice, Maybe, Boosting the Rideau Canal Skating Season in a Changing Climate.”, Interviewed by Dan Rubinstein, Carleton University.
  24. 22/03/25 Kenny, Shawn. “Ice Skating at a Rink Is Fun. Gliding Through a Forest? Glorious.” Interviewed by Ian Austen, Ottawa Dispatch, NY Times.
  25. 22/02/16 Kenny, Shawn. “Tackling Climate Change on the Rideau Canal Skateway.” Interviewed by Joëlle Tourangeau, National Capital Commission.
  26. 22/02/04 Keeping it Cold: A journey to preserve Ottawa’s greatest landmark. Algonquin College Journalism Project, Algonquin College.
  27. 22/01/27 Kenny, Shawn. Extending the Life of the Rideau Canal Skateway, Interviewed by Annette Goerner, CTV Morning Live Ottawa.
  28. 22/01/21 Kenny, Shawn. How to freeze the Canal longer? Robyn Bresnahan, CBC Ottawa Morning.