Unique and useful? White blankets to save Swiss glacier from melting

White canvas covers protect parts of the Rhone glacier against melting as visitors enter an ice cave near the Furka mountain pass
White canvas covers protect parts of the Rhone glacier against melting as visitors enter an ice cave near the Furka mountain pass. Reuters

While the summer is knocking the door and at the same time global warming has started showing its impact on the blue planet but Switzerland has found a very unique way of saving its beautiful Rhone Glacier in the Swiss Alps near the Furka pass from shrinking.

Since 1856, around 1,148 feet of its ice thickness has been lost and in just past 10 years, 131 feet of that has vanished. The local residents took it upon themselves to protect the glacier and o covered it up with white blankets.

As the Earth is getting warmer, the climate is changing and it is affecting the blue planet triggering the rise of sea level twice as high by 2100, said a recent study by NASA.

During this alarming situation, protecting glaciers by blankets might seem strange and foolish but this method could be a good tactic to reflect the sunlight and protect the glaciers from the external environment. It could probably allow the glaciers to remain in their pristine state.

Taking cue from it, a group from the University of Utrecht has come up with the idea of protecting Switzerland's Morteraca glacier by placing it on artificial snow with a high level of light reflectance.

In 2015, David Volken, an expert working with the Swiss Ministry of Environmental Protection, said in an interview that the blanket reduces the melting procedure as much as 70 percent. "The glacier has melted back six metres" in the past three weeks, he noted.

On the other hand, Jean-Pierre Guignard, a 76-year-old tourist from the Swiss town of Lausanne said the new method will help to slow down the melting for a maximum of two years but one day "they will have to take away the blankets because the ice underneath will be gone. It has been heartbreaking to see the glacier shrink, and today it is really painful to see it covered in blankets, to see this vain battle to save a dying mountain," he told AFP, as quoted by Phys.org.

As reported, if every year glaciers lose between five and seven meters of ice, "by the end of the century, only 10 percent of the current ice volume will remain", said Volken.

NASA's 25-year-long study showed that due to the climate change ice melting will increase in Greenland and Antarctica as well, which will affect the global sea-level.

This article was first published on March 11, 2018