The concept of geoengineering artificial glaciers is starting to gain traction among glacier communities around the world. Advocates recently hosted a presentation on “Artificial Glaciers in the Northwest”
The presentation, delivered in April 2014 in Hood River, Oregon by Emily Smith and Tom Bennett of Portland State University, discussed the possibility of importing those techniques to the north side of Mount Hood. The mountain has seen the decline of its Eliot, Coe and Langille glaciers, and the presentation organizers hope that the method can offset the loss of those glaciers.
That method was created by Chewang Norphel, a civil engineer in Ladakh, India, who pioneered a way to “grow” glaciers in the Himalayas. A short film about Norphel’s mission to create small glaciers in Nepal, “Beyond Prayer”, shows the retired engineer describing his technique, which relies on the redirection of streams in the winter to cool areas, and constructing breaks to slow the flow of water. The water freezes along the mountain slope at regular intervals. During the winter, an ice sheet covers these frozen pools, creating small, artificial glaciers.
Norphel had the irrigation of villages in mind when he developed the artificial glaciers, so it is unclear if it will be used in Oregon. That low cost geoengineering techniques from Nepal are finding their way to glacier communities of the Pacific Northwest U.S. speaks to the common challenges and threats faced by communities throughout the world, and to the growing awareness within these communities that they can benefit from more contact with each another.