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No more shinny? Thousands of lakes are losing their winter ice, study says

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Researchers suggest that by the late 21st century, 35,000 freshwater lakes — across three continents and 50 countries — could see permanent ice loss from warming winters if the global climate warms beyond the two-degree target set by the Paris Agreement.

Ice-free lakes can:

  • Cut access to remote communities.
  • Put an end to outdoor sports like ice fishing and hockey.
  • Disrupt feeding and spawning for fish and other aquatic species.

Since Canada has almost 14 per cent of the world’s freshwater lakes, the country could be particularly hard hit by the warming trend.

More than 40 per cent of the lakes with reduced ice levels in the late 21st century will be in Canada, estimates the lead author of the study, York University biology professor Sapna Sharma.

The study outlines how a small temperature increase can dramatically change a community’s use of lakes. It’s estimated that a 1 C annual increase in air temperature could cause millions of people worldwide to lose access to frozen lakes. That will affect remote communities that rely on ice roads across lakes as main avenues for transporting supplies.

Increased warming on lakes will also impact populations of marine life such as fish, said Lewis Molot, an expert in lake ecology at York University, as the necessary food sources to sustain current populations may not be available.

To draw their conclusions, researchers from Canada, the U.S. Germany, Sweden and the U.K. examined 50 years worth of lake-ice records from around the world.

The study was published last month in the journal Nature Climate Change, assessing 514 lakes for ice loss during winters. Twenty eight of these freshwater lakes, including Lake Superior, stood out to researchers, as their historical data points to a growing number of winters without the presence of ice since the 1970s.  

John Magnuson, one of the study’s researchers, shot this photo of Lake Mendota in Wisconsin in January 2007. Reduced lake-ice could economically damage rural communities who depend on winter ice roads to transport supplies. (John Magnuson/University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Lake Superior’s vulnerability to ice-free winters is due to a combination of its depth and warmer air temperatures, prolonging or preventing the lake’s cooling process, researchers said.

“We discovered that Lake Superior is the second fastest warming lake in the world of all the lakes that we studied. We were able to link its high summer temperatures to its reduced ice coverage in the winter,” Sharma said.

previous study done by Sharma’s team in 2015, notes that over a 25 year span, Superior’s summer water surface temperatures rose by more than twice the rate of oceans, averaging about 0.34 C per decade.

“What worries me is the rapidity at which we may experience the dramatic change,” Sharma said. “I’m not sure if we are prepared for a near future without lake ice: culturally, socio-economically but also ecologically.” 

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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