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Heading to the lake for some shinny this winter? New study finds more children dying due to unstable ice –



Marc Chartrand remembers falling through the ice.

It was Halloween night in 2019. It was cold, but not too cold, and snow had not yet fallen, making it an ideal night for a skate on Fish Lake, roughly 13 kilometres southwest of Whitehorse. He enjoyed skating near the shore, where the ice was thickest, yet still clear enough to see fish swimming among the rocks below. 

But this particular day, Chartrand decided to venture further out. Armed with a wooden hockey stick and a puck, he headed further away from shore, the sound of his skates cutting across the ice echoing across the lake. 

And then, suddenly, he watched with dread as the black puck disappeared. Skating at full speed and unable to stop, the ice cracked beneath him. In a split second, he was submerged in the frigid water.

“When I fell through, I couldn’t really see anymore,” Chartrand recalled. “It was really like just a dark black hole under me.”

Marc Chartrand, like many other Yukoners, enjoyed skating on Fish Lake near Whitehorse. Last year, he skated right into open water. He eventually was able to pull himself to safety, and now shares his story to educate others. (George Maratos/CBC)

After a friend tried unsuccessfully to pull Chartrand out with her stick, he was left to try to get out on his own. He tried to pull himself up, but the ice just cracked. He could feel his strength running out. With one last try, he hauled himself out of the icy water.

While Chartrand blames himself for what happened — “waiting a couple extra days would not have hurt” — stories like these are becoming more common as Canadian winters become warmer.

Recent studies have shown that globally, lakes are warming due to climate change and new research has found it’s something that can have dire consequences.

A study published on Wednesday in the journal PLOS One found that more children and youth are dying as a result of unstable lake ice, mainly at the beginning and end of winter.

WATCH | Researcher discusses findings the risk of drowning during warmer winters:

Associate Professor Sapna Sharma of York University’s Faculty of Science talks about what her research team found in 10 different countries over the last 10 to 30 years about winter drownings and a changing climate. (Credit York University) 1:55

The team of authors looked at 4,000 drownings across 10 countries including Canada, Russia, Germany, Russia, Sweden and 14 states in the United States. The research included 30 years of data across every Canadian province and territory.

Most of the drownings occurred when the temperature was between –5 C and 0 C. Other factors that came into play as well, including thaw-freeze events, rain and wind.

Children on the ice

The researchers used Minnesota as a case study; the state collects data on the age and source of drownings.

They found that children under nine years old accounted for 44 per cent of the winter drownings that didn’t involve a vehicle. Youth from 15 to 39 years old were also “vulnerable” as they spent more time on the ice fishing, for example, and tended to engage in riskier activities.

The findings concern lead author Sapna Sharma, a professor at York University’s department of biology, who has been studying lakes her entire career. 

“I started going through this data and I was just like, ‘I can’t do this,'” said Sharma, who is the mother of a five-year-old. “It’s devastating because the kids are four, five, six years old.”

In the case of people who died while using vehicles, such as snowmobiles, most of the deaths were in those younger than 24 years old. 

And while the research did not include a case study in Canada, Sharma said the data showed similar patterns.

“The climate is changing, and winters are warming,” she said. “And as individuals, it’s really hard to put that into your everyday decision-making. Being in Canada you think, ‘Oh, I’m going to the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, and everybody goes skating on the Rideau Canal.'”

But while the canal might have been frozen by this time last year, or the years before that, one can’t assume it’s always the case.

And Sharma is particularly concerned about what this winter might bring with the pandemic.

“I think this is really important especially this year with COVID and more people spending time outside,” she said. “It might be the first year that they’re going out, like exploring nature, because there’s nothing else to do.” 

Deaths in the North

For some countries included in the research, he number of winter drownings through lake ice were 15 to 50 per cent of their annual drownings. Canada had the highest with a median of 70 — particularly in the territories, where people use frozen lakes as a means of their livelihood, be it for hunting, fishing or as a means of transportation. 

And it’s the North that is seeing the most rapid warming.

According to Canada’s Changing Climate Report, released in 2019, the average annual temperature has warmed by roughly 1.7 C above the average from 1948. In the North, that anomaly is 2.3 C, with the greatest warming occurring in the winter.  

The study highlights the importance of incorporating local knowledge into better understanding ice conditions and specifically mentions the experience of Cree hunters who monitor air temperatures and precipitation to evaluate inland ice conditions.

In March, five French tourists and their guide died after their snowmobiles fell through the ice in Quebec’s Lac Saint-Jean in March. The Sûreté du Québec is seen here during a search attempt. (Julia Page/CBC)

“Indigenous communities … have a lot of experience using ice, so I think it’s crucial to incorporate traditional knowledge, and the Indigenous communities into the safety frameworks,” Sharma said. “We need that knowledge.”

There could also be more agencies devoted to monitoring the ice and issuing outlooks or advisories as to ice conditions, something that Germany and Italy use, which helped reduce their winter ice drownings in the early and late winter months, according to the study.

Chartrand shares his experience mainly as a warning to others that the lake hadn’t yet frozen yet. That day, he remembers seeing more than a dozen people on the ice, albeit closer to shore, including a mother pulling a child on a toboggan. He still believes skating or spending any time on the lake is something everyone should do, but just under the right conditions.

“I would encourage everybody to go,” he said. “But just maybe stay closer to the shore, or maybe do a do a test before.”

But most importantly, Sharma said, be aware of the weather in the days before. Climate change is causing more swings back and forth in temperatures, something that climatologists have nicknamed “winter weirding,” which can weaken ice.

Sharma has a warning for those who may forget it was 10 C just a few days before they plan to skate: “The ice doesn’t forget.”

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New species of crested dinosaur identified in Mexico



A team of palaeontologists in Mexico have identified a new species of dinosaur after finding its 72 million-year-old fossilized remains almost a decade ago, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said on Thursday.

The new species, named Tlatolophus galorum, was identified as a crested dinosaur after 80% of its skull was recovered, allowing experts to compare it to other dinosaurs of that type, INAH said.

The investigation, which also included specialists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, began in 2013 with the discovery of an articulated tail in the north-central Mexican state of Coahuila, where other discoveries have been made.

“Once we recovered the tail, we continued digging below where it was located. The surprise was that we began to find bones such as the femur, the scapula and other elements,” said Alejandro Ramírez, a scientist involved in the discovery.

Later, the scientists were able to collect, clean and analyze other bone fragments from the front part of the dinosaur’s body.

The palaeontologists had in their possession the crest of the dinosaur, which was 1.32 meters long, as well as other parts of the skull: lower and upper jaws, palate and even a part known as the neurocranium, where the brain was housed, INAH said.

The Mexican anthropology body also explained the meaning of the name – Tlatolophus galorum – for the new species of dinosaur.

Tlatolophus is a mixture of two words, putting together a term from the indigenous Mexican language of Nahuatl that means “word” with the Greek term meaning “crest”. Galorum refers to the people linked to the research, INAH said.


(Reporting by Abraham Gonzalez; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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Alberta family searches for answers in teen's sudden death after COVID exposure, negative tests –



A southern Alberta mother and father are grappling with the sudden, unexplained death of their 17-year-old daughter, and with few answers, they’re left wondering if she could be the province’s youngest victim of COVID-19.

Sarah Strate — a healthy, active Grade 12 student at Magrath High School who loved singing, dancing and being outdoors — died on Monday, less than a week after being notified she’d been exposed to COVID-19.

While two tests came back negative, her parents say other signs point to the coronavirus, and they’re waiting for more answers. 

“It was so fast. It’s all still such a shock,” said Sarah’s mother, Kristine Strate. “She never even coughed. She had a sore throat and her ears were sore for a while, and [she had] swollen neck glands.”

Kristine said Sarah developed mild symptoms shortly after her older sister — who later tested positive for COVID-19 —  visited from Lethbridge, one of Alberta’s current hot spots for the virus.

The family went into isolation at their home in Magrath on Tuesday, April 20. They were swabbed the next day and the results were negative.

‘Everything went south, super-fast’

By Friday night, Sarah had developed fever and chills. On Saturday, she started vomiting and Kristine, a public health nurse, tried to keep her hydrated.

“She woke up feeling a bit more off on Monday morning,” Kristine said. “And everything went south, super-fast.”

Sarah had grown very weak and her parents decided to call 911 when she appeared to become delirious.

“She had her blanket on and I was talking to her and, in an instant, she was unresponsive,” said Kristine, who immediately started performing CPR on her daughter.

When paramedics arrived 20 minutes later, they were able to restore a heartbeat and rushed Sarah to hospital in Lethbridge, where she died.

“I thought there was hope once we got her heart rate back. I really did,” recalled Sarah’s father, Ron.

“He was praying for a miracle, and sometimes miracles don’t come,” said Kristine.

Strate’s parents say her health deteriorated quickly after being exposed to COVID-19. She died at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge on Monday. (Ron Strate)

Searching for answers

At the hospital, the family was told Sarah’s lungs were severely infected and that she may have ended up with blood clots in both her heart and lungs, a condition that can be a complication of COVID-19.

But a second test at the hospital came back negative for COVID-19.

“There really is no other answer,” Ron said. “When a healthy 17-year-old girl, who was sitting up in her bed and was able to talk, and within 10 minutes is unconscious on our floor — there was no reason [for it].”

The province currently has no record of any Albertans under the age of 20 who have died of COVID-19.

According to the Strate family, the medical examiner is running additional blood and tissue tests, in an effort to uncover the cause of Sarah’s death.

‘Unusual but not impossible’

University of Alberta infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger, who was not involved in Sarah’s treatment, says it is conceivable that further testing could uncover evidence of a COVID-19 infection, despite two negative test results.

However, she hasn’t seen a similar case in Alberta.

“It would be unusual but not impossible because no test is perfect. We have had cases where an initial test is negative and then if you keep on thinking it’s COVID and you re-test, you then can find COVID,” she said.

According to Saxinger, the rate of false negatives is believed to be very low. But it can happen if there are problems with the testing or specimen collection.

She says people are more likely to test positive after symptoms develop. 

“The best sensitivity of the test is around day four or five of having symptoms,” she said. “So you can miss things if you test very, very early. And with new development of symptoms, it’s always a good time to re-test because then the likelihood of getting a positive test is a little higher. But again, no test is perfect.” 

Sarah deteriorated so quickly — dying five days after she first developed symptoms — she didn’t live long enough to make it to her follow-up COVID-19 test. Instead, it was done at the hospital.

‘An amazing kid’

The Strate family now faces an agonizing wait for answers — one that will likely take months — about what caused Sarah’s death.

But Ron, who teaches at the school where Sarah attended Grade 12, wants his daughter to be remembered for the life she lived, not her death.

Strate, pictured here at three years old, had plans to become a massage therapist. She attended Grade 12 at Magrath High School and was an active, healthy teenager who was involved in sports, music and the school’s suicide prevention group. (Ron Strate)

Sarah was one of five children. Ron says she was strong, active and vibrant and had plans to become a massage therapist after graduating from high school.

She played several sports and loved to sing and dance as part of a show choir. She was a leader in the school’s suicide prevention group and would stand up for other students who were facing bullying.

“She’s one of the leaders in our Hope Squad … which goes out and helps kids to not be scared,” he father said.

“She’s an amazing kid.”

Sarah would often spend hours helping struggling classmates, and her parents hope her kindness is not forgotten.

“She’d done so many good things. Honestly, I’ve got so many messages from parents saying, ‘You have no idea how much your daughter helped our kid,'” said Ron.

“This 17-year-old girl probably lived more of a life in 17 years than most adults will live in their whole lives. She was so special. I love her so much.”

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China launches key module of space station planned for 2022



BEIJING (Reuters) -China launched an unmanned module on Thursday containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022, state media reported.

The module, named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens”, was launched on the Long March 5B, China’s largest carrier rocket, at 11:23 a.m. (0323 GMT) from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.

Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China’s first self-developed space station, rivalling the only other station in service – the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS is backed by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. China was barred from participating by the United States.

“(Tianhe) is an important pilot project in the building of a powerful nation in both technology and in space,” state media quoted President Xi Jinping as saying in a congratulatory speech.

Tianhe forms the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a life span of at least 10 years.

The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 km (211-280 miles).

In the later missions, China will launch the two other core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.

Work on the space station programme began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.

Both helped China test the programme’s space rendezvous and docking capabilities.

China aims to become a major space power by 2030. It has ramped up its space programme with visits to the moon, the launch of an uncrewed probe to Mars and the construction of its own space station.

In contrast, the fate of the ageing ISS – in orbit for more than two decades – remains uncertain.

The project is set to expire in 2024, barring funding from its partners. Russia said this month that it would quit the project from 2025.

Russia is deepening ties with China in space as tensions with Washington rise.

Moscow has slammed the U.S.-led Artemis moon exploration programme and instead chosen to join Beijing in setting up a lunar research outpost in the coming years.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Liangping Gao; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Simon Cameron-Moore and Lincoln Feast.)

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