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Experts sound alarm after unusual number of deaths from ice collapses amid warmer temperatures: 'This year is one to remember'

Scientists warn that rising temperatures will put more people at risk.

Scientists warn that rising temperatures will put more people at risk.

Photo Credit: iStock

After four people died in Minnesota while attempting to ice fish in the first few weeks of January, climate scientists warned that rising temperatures will put more people at risk of falling through the ice, per Scientific American

What's happening?

Ice fishing has been a cherished part of life in northern U.S. states for decades, offering winter recreational opportunities for both residents and tourists. However, the beloved sport is becoming increasingly more dangerous as the world warms

Nicole Biagi, an ice safety coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told Scientific American that the recent ice-related deaths are concerning since, historically, most accidents occur later in the season when the ice normally starts to thaw. 

However, the unseasonably warm temperatures may have caught veteran ice fishermen off guard. 

According to Scientific American, last December was the hottest on record for large swaths of Minnesota, with average temperatures soaring 5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. 

"This year is one to remember," Pete Boulay, a climatologist with the Minnesota DNR who studies the changing climate's impact on state lakes, told the outlet.

Why is the thinner ice concerning?

Weak surface ice is causing numerous injuries, accidents, and deaths across the northern U.S. An ice fisherman in north Michigan recently died after falling through ice, as did three men in northern Vermont last year in February. 

While falling through ice isn't always fatal, it can still result in serious injuries or hypothermia

Midstory reported that it also threatens long-standing traditions and impacts communities that rely on the economic boost from winter tourism and events. 

In addition, Midstory explained that warmer winters are causing a decline of coldwater fish in Minnesota, which disrupts lake ecosystems.

While the effects of our overheating planet are becoming more apparent, lake ice season in Minnesota has been declining over the last 50 years. 

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the state has experienced 10 to 14 days of lost ice coverage on average, with some well-known lakes losing nearly three weeks of ice in that time. 

Climate experts have observed a warming trend in the Great Lakes area over the last several decades, signaling a long-term pattern rather than an isolated weather event. Scientists say the rising temperatures and more extreme weather events are a result of human activity — primarily the burning of oil, gas, and coal.

What's being done about it?

Midstory says that several state agencies and even citizen volunteers in Minnesota regularly monitor the lakes to help inform people of dangerous conditions. However, because of the sheer number of lakes in the state, many of them go unmonitored. 

In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act was signed in 2022, helping Americans save thousands on energy-efficient upgrades like solar panels, electric vehicles, and home improvements that can reduce planet-warming pollution. 

Changing how we use energy and supporting eco-friendly companies can help cool the planet and protect northern communities. 

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