Melting Glaciers Get Blanket Treatment

Presena GlacierTo stop Alpine glaciers from melting, Italian scientists want to cover them with blankets.

Large swaths of reflective polyester and polypropylene material will protect the Presena glacier this winter, making it look slightly as if it had been tee-peed, in an effort to help the ski mecca retain its cool. Two years ago, Swiss neighbors started blanketing the alps to prevent slippage.

“When we first heard about covering the glaciers, we wrinkled our noses at the idea,” says Claudio Smiraglia, president of the Italian Glacier Committee. “Now we want to know if, when and how it works.”

The Presena cover-up comes after University of Milan researchers studied the blanket effect on a patch of the Eastern Dosdè glacier, 2,740 meters high and the tallest glacier in Lombardy.

Initial results gave those involved the warm fuzzies: after 90 days under the 150-meter-area covered by the white blanket , the protected snow and ice sheet were 1.90 meters thicker (about 6 ft. 2″) than uncovered portions.

Whether blankets are a viable way to keep the Alps in their place remains to be seen.

“We must be very cautious, about possible applications in the field of land management and natural hazards,” said Jean Pierre Fosson, director of the Foundation for Courmayeur Safety. “We must take into account the costs and environmental sustainability. If it takes helicopters or other mechanical means to put down the blankets and take them back up, energy consumption and CO2 emission will increase.”

Melting glaciers are especially felt in this part of Europe, doomsday predictions have them warmed away to nothing by 2050.

Image via flickr.