Yukon ice breakup betting could help climate researchers

Climate change researchers should scour the 110-year-old Dawson City Ice Pool contest records for evidence of global warming, an Alaskan scientist says.

Climate change researchers should scourthe110-year-old Dawson City Ice Pool contest records for evidence of global warming, an Alaskan scientist says.

Since 1896, people in the Klondike capital have placed bets on when the ice on the Yukon River will start to move out.

By examining the winning bets, researchers could find out valuable information about the territory's changing climate, said Martin Jeffries, who works at the Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks, Alaska.

"[In a] gambling competition for ice breakup, there is clearly something, thereis scientifically-useful information," Jeffries said in a telephone interview Monday.

"I think it would be very interesting to look at the Dawson records. I think somebody should go ahead and do it."

An analysis of results from an ice breakup-guessing contest on a tributary of the Yukon River, the Tanana, produced clear evidence of a changing climate, he said.

Although the timing of the Tanana breakup didn't change much between 1917 and 1960,since thenthe records show the ice started disappearing sooner, he said.

"Breakup has become progressively earlier," he said. "All I can say is you are probably safe to bet earlier rather than late."

The Dawson City Ice Pool is organized by the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire.