In the latest citizen science venture, backyard ice skaters are monitoring climate change in Canada and the northern United States.

After Canadian scientists predicted that global warming will eventually be the demise of backyard skating rinks, a group of geographers at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo created RinkWatch. In just 20 days, 630 volunteers signed up to keep tabs on the condition of their home rinks.

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Just as birders have provided scientists with information on sitings, the researchers say the map will be a scientifically useful database for Canada’s changing winters. And, it’s free.

“It’s a story about nature, climate change, backyard skating, the weather — that’s just gravy for Canadians,” project leader Robert McLeman told The Ottawa Citizen.

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The perfect skating temperature, McLeman says, is 23 degrees Fahrenheit. When he moved to Waterloo, McLeman started wondering why skating rinks shouldn’t be measured along with the ice on lakes and rivers.

But even he was surprised by the enthusiastic response, which caused the server to crash twice in the first week after RinkWatch launched. He added a forum for regular RinkWatchers to get acquainted. Now participants are trading tips for surviving climate change … and using squeegees to smooth out bumps in rinks.

Photo: Corbis