National Geographic : 2014 Mar
photo: Erika LarsEn. art: Marc Johns Skate Watchers Lately outdoor ice-skating rinks are melting faster than the winter cold is lasting—making them a prime indicator of climate change. that’s the idea behind rinkWatch, a citizen science website created by haydn Lawrence, robert McLeman, and colin robertson of canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University. the project allows users of the home ice rinks popular in colder climes to log the skateability of their backyard ice. according to recent reports, fewer rinks are maintaining optimum skating temperatures throughout the winter. With a cultural staple on the line, rinkWatch has caught on in canada and the northern United states. “if you took outdoor skating from us, it would be like taking cowboy hats from texans or the red sox from Bostonians,” says McLeman. “Life would go on, but there would be something missing.” —Rosemary Hammack Foreign Exchange Visiting Brazilians spend about nine billion dollars a year in the U.S. on everything from iPhones to baby gear. Prices are high in Brazil, and “even with plane tickets and hotels it can still be cheaper to shop in the States,” says the U.S. Embassy’s Dean Cheves. To encourage tourism, the U.S. has sped up visa processing for Brazilians from 120 days to two days; roughly 5,000 Brazilians apply daily. To cope with the extra baggage, airlines take on additional fuel for return trips. —Daniel Stone NEXT Preparations for this home rink in Ramsey, Minnesota, start in October. “Our family uses it almost every day,” says owner Aaron Davis.