Swiss save their glaciers with blankets

Next to the Fourka Pass in the Swiss Alps is the beautiful Rhône Glacier. Local residents came up with an unusual way to save the attraction: they cover it with blankets.

Large white blankets – this is not a way to “wrap” the glacier warmer, but a good tactic for reflecting sunlight. Blankets warm us, keeping the heat radiated by our body; in the case of large accumulations of ice, the situation is exactly the opposite, and ice, closed from the effects of the external environment, will remain longer in its pristine state. To such measures, the inhabitants of the central part of Switzerland did not just go: wooden signposts, which for decades have been marking the level of ice growing, saying that the glacier of 1856 sank by as much as 350 meters.

Although blankets are certainly a very low-tech solution to the local crisis, some tangible benefits from them are still observed. In 2015, David Falken, a global physician working with the Swiss Ministry of Environmental Protection, said in an interview that blankets reduce melting by as much as 70%. Currently, different initiative groups are looking for ways to slow down melting by other means: for example, a group from the University of Utrecht hopes to save the Morteraca glacier in Switzerland by placing artificial snow with high light reflectance.

Similar cases occur all over the world. Alas, even highly scientific tricks will only help to slightly slow down the melting of ice: if the climate continues to change towards global warming, sooner or later all glaciers will melt on Earth.

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