Volume 43, Issue 1 (January 1998)
Decay Rates in a Cold Climate Region: A Review of Cases Involving Advanced Decomposition from the Medical Examiner's Office in Edmonton, Alberta
Previous research into postmortem interval (PMI) estimation has been restricted to temperate and arid climates. Results suggest that decomposition rates may be significantly slower in cold weather regions. Preliminary research to conduct a cold weather time since death study has begun in Edmonton, which experiences mean monthly temperatures below freezing five months of the year. A case review at Edmonton's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner from 1990 to 1996 provided background information on a sample of 20 cases involving advanced decomposition, with partial to complete skeletonization of remains. Cases with a PMI of less than seven months were compared with regional weather records to establish the mean PMI temperature. Results indicate that skeletonization can occur in less than six weeks in summer and four months in winter, despite freezing temperatures. In some cases, postmortem animal activity accelerated decomposition rates.