Winter in the North Country is synonymous with outdoor activities like pond hockey and cross country skiing. In a collaborative research article recently published in The Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies, two faculty members and three St. Lawrence alumni explore how carbon emissions and climate change could affect these cold-weather traditions.
“The Impact of Climate Change on Hockey Expertise in the North Country and Adirondack Region of New York” was co-authored by Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Jon Rosales, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Pettengill, Jake Van Duersen ’19, John Quinn ’18, and Jacqueline Dufour ’18. Their research modeled a high emission and low emission scenario to gauge the impacts of climate change on winter sports in the North Country through 2095.
“If we remain on the business-as-usual trajectory, which is the higher emission scenario, there will be no ice available to skate on at the end of the century. That doesn't mean there won't be any ice. That just means that there won't be five good days of hard freeze to create the ice necessary to skate,” Rosales said during a recent interview with NCPR about his team’s research.
According to their calculation, the outlook for winter athletes in the North Country is more positive if countries can work together to lower global carbon emissions and curb global warming.
“Right now, we calculated that we could experience 107 skateable days,” said Rosales. “Under the low emission scenario, let's say the Paris Agreement, that actually goes up a bit to 110. And that's because the emissions are actually falling underneath that scenario.”
Faculty-mentored research with real-world impacts is a hallmark of the St. Lawrence academic experience. According to Van Duersen, putting climate change in the context of culture in the North Country is key to promoting understanding and sparking action.
“This research hits close to home in the North Country. The ability to explain the impacts of climate change in common terms is increasingly valuable for communicating science,” said Van Duersen, who contributed to the research during his time as a student. “Climate change has disproportionate impacts globally. Although impacts in the Adirondack Region of New York may be less severe than some devastating natural disasters elsewhere, a central component of the North Country lifestyle is at stake.”
Van Duersen, who majored in environmental studies and economics, is now a graduate research assistant at the Quinney College of Natural Resources at Utah State University studying social issues in the context of resulting ecological disturbances while pursuing a master’s in ecology. After graduating from St. Lawrence, Van Duersen worked in forestry research through an Americorps program as well as in forestry consulting. He decided to pursue higher education after realizing he still felt passionate about his undergraduate interest in ecology.
“My undergrad research sparked my interest in natural resource management,” he said. “[Professor] Rosales's ‘Adapting to Climate Change’ course allowed me to phrase climate change in scientifically accurate terms and understand the disproportionate impacts on global communities. And [Professor] Pettingill's ‘Managing Outdoor Recreation’ course gave me the direct prerequisites for the research I am currently pursuing in the field of recreation and management of parks and protected areas.”
“Collaborating with Jake on this project his senior year was an excellent capstone to his time at St. Lawrence, and provided a smooth transition to graduate school,” said Pettengill. “Helping students find and pursue their passion is one of the most rewarding parts of the research process.”