Ice blankets a lifesaver for melting glaciers

Koce lodowe

Europe, compared to other parts of the world, is experiencing the greatest heat waves caused by climate change. True, glaciers are melting all over the world, but those in Italy, Austria, Switzerland and other parts of the Old Continent are retreating faster than ever.

The rate at which the alpine “giants” are shrinking has led to several innovative projects to save them – one of which is ice blankets.

Ice blankets – giant tarps to prevent melting

The project involves covering glaciers with strips of white material that reflect sunlight off the ice, preventing evaporation and melting. These tarps work similarly to the silver reflective covers placed on our car windows to prevent overheating.

Activities on this project were first undertaken in 2008 and continue annually during the summer. Initially covering an area of just 30,000m2 of the Presena Glacier in northern Italy, climate experts are now working on an area exceeding 100,000m2. Covering glaciers with something like a protective blanket is an effective way. The study showed that glacier melting was reduced by about 70% compared to the exposed portion.

Ice blankets – logistical and financial barriers

Unfortunately, although this method yields results, its use only makes sense for small glacier patches. Activities for larger facilities are difficult, if not impossible, to implement. The team unrolls strips measuring 5m wide and 70m long, and the cost per tarp is about 400 euros. Installation takes 6 weeks, as does their removal for the winter. Switzerland alone loses about 1 billioncubic meters of glacial ice every year, so the cost of protecting it, calculated in billions of euros, exceeds common sense assumptions. Logistical problems and the inaccessibility of the area are also difficulties.

It seems, therefore, that if we want to protect glaciers, the only effective way may be to reduceCO2 emissions.

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