Video of the Week: Can Blankets Protect Swiss Glaciers from Melting?

People in Switzerland are taking matters into their own hands, becoming creative with their efforts to combat climate change.

In a recent tweet from NBC Left Field, members of a community in the Swiss Alps are seen covering glaciers with ginormous white tarps. They hope the tarps will help reflect sunlight, which could reduce the amount of melting caused by rising temperatures.

The residents describe in the video their fear that the water they receive from the glaciers might soon disappear. Glaciers have long been a dependable water source for regions all over the world, but not anymore.

In honor of Earth Day, NBC Left Field tweeted a video depicting people covering glaciers with blankets.

[Click here to watch the full video on YouTube.]

A 2018 article in the Washington Post describes how a group of people living adjacent to Rhone Glacier haul tarps through the mountains each year prior to the start of summer. Rising temperatures, as well as a longer summer season, means glaciers are likely to face rapid melting in coming years.

But can blankets really help save the glaciers?

Although it isn’t the most comprehensive solution, it may actually work. Swiss glaciologist David Volken told NDTV that the blankets could reduce ice melt by as much as 70 percent. It’s just a temporary fix, though. Volken estimates that by the end of the century only about 10 percent of the ice volume will remain.

The blankets, however, appear to be slowing the pace of melting, giving communities some time to adapt and consider alternate sources of water.

Read More on GlacierHub:

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Roundup: Mysteries, Past and Present, Abound

Climate Experts Removed from Zuckerberg Delegation

From the Washington Post: “Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg flew to Glacier National Park on Saturday to tour the melting ice fields that have become the poster child for climate change’s effects on Montana’s northern Rockies. But days before the tech tycoon’s visit, the Trump administration abruptly removed two of the park’s top climate experts from a delegation scheduled to show him around, telling a research ecologist and the park superintendent that they were no longer going to participate in the tour.”

Read more about this unusual move here.

Grinnell Glacier basin in Glacier National Park (Source: Tim Rains/National Park Service).

 

Water Rights Hold Up Washington State Budget

From the Seattle Times: “$4 billion in new construction projects and money for a few hundred state jobs still hang in the balance while the capital budget has been held up by a dispute over water rights. Senate Republicans say they won’t pass a capital budget without legislation aimed at overturning a recent state Supreme Court known as the Hirst decision. That ruling effectively limited the use of new domestic wells in certain rural areas when they may harm senior water rights.”

Read about the complexities of this issue here.

The state capitol in Olympia, Washington (Source: John Colella/Creative Commons).

 

Retreating Glaciers Solve a Family Mystery

From The Telegraph: “The frozen bodies of a Swiss couple who went missing 75 years ago in the Alps have been found on a shrinking glacier, Swiss media said on Tuesday. Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin, the parents of seven children, had gone to milk their cows in a meadow above Chandolin in the Valais canton on August 15, 1942.”

Read about what this means to one of the couple’s surviving children here.

The couple’s remains were found on Tsanfleuron Glacier (Source: MattW/Creative Commons).

 

 

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Roundup:The Melting World, Frozen Stories and Ice Artifacts

Alpine glaciers have already begun to disappear worldwide

As world temperatures soar, public outcry has focused on the threat to polar ice sheets and sea ice. Yet there is another impact of global warming—one much closer to home—that spells trouble for Americans: the extinction of alpine glaciers in the Rocky Mountains. The epicenter of the crisis is Glacier National Park, Montana, whose peaks once held one-hundred-and-fifty glaciers. Only twenty-five survive. The Park provides a window into the future of climate impacts for mountain ranges around the globe.

The Alps, Andes, Cascades, Rockies, and Himalayas are suffering staggering losses. Glaciers provide more than fifty percent of our freshwater needs worldwide—for drinking, irrigation, and hydroelectric power. What’s more, alpine ice feeds innumerable watersheds that harbor ecosystems crucial to fish and wildlife. Nowhere is this truer than in the mountains of Montana.

Glacier National Park, Montana by Siva Subramanian Vasanth
Glacier National Park, Montana by Siva Subramanian Vasanth Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/siva_vasanth/

Read more about the story, click here.

 

FROZEN STORIES – Discoveries in the Alpine glaciers

Climate change also has its archaeological aspect. It can bring to light what has been hidden under glacial ice for a very long time. Ötzi was not the only lucky find of the last decades. Many other objects have been exposed from the ice,recounting exciting stories from a distant past. And every new discovery gives rise to the question: What was it that drove people onto the glaciers for thousands of years?

FROZEN STORIES is an exhibition of rare and in some cases only recently discovered finds from the glacier regions of the Alps, some of them appearing in public for the first time.A multimedia tour with animations, videos and original finds explains the glacier phenomenon to visitors in all its exciting topicality.

Read more about frozen story,click here.

 

Swiss rush to find ice artifacts as glaciers melt

“With Swiss glaciers expected to melt away within a half-century, a Swiss cultural institute and a graduate student in the canton (state) of Graubuenden have launched a pilot project through the end of 2015 to gather artifacts trapped long ago in the ice that are now turning up. The clock is ticking, they say, because once the ice melts away the items will no longer be preserved. Leandra Naef, who has a master’s degree in prehistoric archaeology, told Swiss news agency swissinfo.ch that the project in eastern Switzerland’s mountains “has to happen now, or else it will be too late, if it’s not already too late.

Upper snows of the Jungfraufirn near Jungfraujoch. File photo. Image by: Tallin/ Wikipedia
Upper snows of the Jungfraufirn near Jungfraujoch. Image by: Tallin/ Wikipedia Photo: http://www.timeslive.co.za/scitech/2014/06/24/swiss-rush-to-find-ice-artifacts-as-glaciers-melt

 

Read more about glaciers melt, click here.

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New Glacial Lakes to Transform Swiss Landscape

Ongoing climate change is causing glaciers in the Swiss Alps to shrink dramatically, and some predict they will disappear entirely by the end of the century. As they melt over the coming decades, Swiss scientists estimate that 500 to 600 new lakes covering close to 50 square kilometers of land will form in Switzerland. That’s about the equivalent of two Lake Eries, the eleventh largest lake in the world.

“The rapid melting of glaciers is radically changing the Alpine landscape,” world renowned Swiss glacier expert and University of Zurich professor Wilfried Haeberli reported at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in Vienna, according to Spiegel.

Haeberli and a team of scientists recently completed a project that attempts to predict where and when these new lakes will form using glacier bed models and time-based ablation scenarios for all Swiss glaciers. Using case studies, they also looked at the potential natural hazards that could be created by these new lakes, the development potential they might offer in terms of hydroelectric energy and tourism and legal issues they might present in terms of ownership, liability, exploitation and conservation.

One lake in particular they studied was Lake Trift in the Valley of Gadmen, which appeared in the 1990s due to melting of the Altesch Glacier. Local authorities built a breathtaking suspension bridge over the lake that has since become a tourist attraction. Energy companies are also considering putting it to use for the generation of hydroelectric power. The creation of a dam, which would be necessary for such a project, would likely diminish the attractiveness of the site for tourists, but it could protect the area against the risk of flooding.

“Whether the lake remains natural or becomes artificial, there is a significant risk of rock or ice avalanches due to the longterm destabilisation of slopes previously supported by the Trift glacier and the potential collapse of the current glacier tongue,” the scientists write. “Such avalanches can trigger a surge wave in the lake with disastrous consequences. The construction of a dam of adequate size could protect the area from floods and allow for the generation of power but it would reduce the appeal for tourists.”

Haeberli and his colleagues urge that debates over some of these complex issues begin now, before the Swiss landscape transforms from one of glaciers to one of glacial lakes.

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Roundup: Pollutants, Columbia Glacier Retreat, Cryo Consortium

Pollutants from Glaciers

“As glaciers increasingly melt in the wake of climate change, it is not only the landscape that is affected. Thawing glaciers also release many industrial pollutants stored in the ice into the environment. Now, within the scope of a Swiss National Science Foundation project, researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Empa, ETH Zurich and the University of Berne have measured the concentrations of a class of these pollutants – polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) – in the ice of an Alpine glacier accurately for the first time.”

Read more at PHYSORG.

 

Columbia Glacier is Retreating

“Scientists have long studied Alaska’s fast-moving Columbia Glacier, a tidewater glacier that descends through the Chugach Mountains into Prince William Sound. Yet the river of ice continues to deliver new surprises.When British explorers first surveyed the glacier in 1794, its nose extended to the northern edge of Heather Island, near the mouth of Columbia Bay. The glacier held that position until 1980, when it began a rapid retreat.”

Read more at Earth Observatory.

 

Inter-university Consortium

“For the first time, an Inter-University Consortium on Cryosphere and Climate Change (IUCCCC) is undertaking glacier studies in four States in India, funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). Also unprecedented is the participation of the University of Jammu and the University of Kashmir in this effort.”

Read more at The Hindu.

 

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