The Washington Post used its sports section to publish a story claiming that climate change is putting an end to an “iconic skating race” in the Netherlands.
The story, entitled “Waning Winters,” features the slug line, “In the Netherlands, an iconic skating race — and a way of life — faces extinction from climate change.
“The Elfstedentocht translates to ‘eleven cities tour,'” Maese explains. “It’s an ice skating race that measures about 135 miles and takes place on the canals that connect the 11 cities in the Friesland province of the Netherlands.”
But Maese goes on to insist that the race is doomed:
The race only takes place when conditions allow; when extreme winter bowls over the region, the temperatures drop, and the canals freeze over. But the Netherlands is no longer a romantic wintry wonderland, and there hasn’t been an Elfstedentocht since 1997, marking the longest drought ever between races. Climate change has endangered the race and is slowly dousing hopes across the province.
The sports writer insists that “the threats that climate change poses to the sports world are not theoretical.”
“Scientists, sports enthusiasts and event organizers around the globe have already noticed an impact, from changes in the ocean that affect water sports and fishing, to extreme heat that has taken a toll on event scheduling and athlete training, to rising sea levels and intensifying storms that endanger communities and livelihoods.”
Maese adds that 2018-2019 winter has been the fourth-warmest global surface temperature since 1880, and he makes several other points about the end of other winter sports such as the Iditarod dog-sledding race in Alaska.
Yet, deep down in the story, Maese also notes that “the Netherlands have never been reliably frigid,”
It has never been a sure thing, as the Netherlands have never been reliably frigid. The first formal tour was held in 1909. In the first 50 years, conditions were sufficient to stage an Elfstedentocht 11 times. Since then, there have been only four.
In fact, there was insufficient ice on the canal for the race 39 times since 1909. Clearly, the race has a spotty history. Further, it is only just over 100 years old, so we have no idea what ice conditions were previous to 1909 as far as conditions suitable for such a race are concerned.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.