The climate around us is constantly changing. Unfortunately, we are mostly to blame. Due to greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures are on the rise and as a result, the glaciers are shrinking.
The Swiss Alps have been hit especially hard by this, and the citizens of a small village near the Morteratsch glacier are not happy. The glacier has been shrinking by about 115 feet each year. A group of scientists has been hired in order to put a stop to this. Their idea is to spray the glacier with artificial snow in order to prevent further melting.
The artificial snow is great at reflecting sunlight and it may, at least in theory, protect the glacier from melting any further. A similar experiment has already been performed on a smaller glacier called Diavolezzafirn, and during a 10-year period, the glacier actually grew in size. The only difference is that the scientists used white fleece covers instead of artificial snow.
The scientists tasked with preserving the Morteratsch glacier are testing the artificial snow theory on the nearby Diavolezzafirn glacier. They have covered a 1,300 square feet area of the smaller glacier and at the end of the month, they sprayed an additional five feet. This comes to a combined depth of four meters, and if it works there is no reason this method cannot be used on larger glaciers as well.
The great thing about this method is that it does not require the whole glacier to be covered. If that were the case, this method financially makes no sense. But scientists believe that covering one square kilometer of the whole glacier is enough to prevent further melting. Still, this too represents a huge undertaking and requires careful planning. The number of snow machines that are needed for a project like this measure in the thousands. They also need to work daily through winter and springtime in order to keep up with the melting of the ice. One good thing about this whole process is that a nearby glacier has already melted and left behind large meltwater lakes. The water from these meltwater lakes can then be recycled and used in the process of creating the artificial snow needed to cover the Morteratsch glacier.
Additionally, a new kind of snow machine needs to be manufactured in order to accommodate the production of artificial snow since the glaciers are constantly on the move. One of the ideas is that the machines are powered by solar energy since the area Is so open.
Before any of this even begins to happen, the initial pilot project that is underway on Diavolezzafirn needs to be successful. If it is, the funding for the rest of the project is guaranteed and the team may begin working on the new kind of snow machines needed for an endeavor such as this.
In time, the glacier might even grow, but none of the scientists can say whether something like this might truly happen.
Even though the initial reasoning behind this preservation project is to improve tourism, or keep it on the same level as before, there is a bigger picture to think about. Glaciers are a huge source of water, especially in regions like India, and if scientists are able to develop a way to preserve them in order to stabilize our water supplies may be of great help in regions susceptible to drought.
Alexandra grew up dreaming of being a great science explorer. She always wanted to travel the world and explore some of the greatest science mysteries of the times. After high school, she studied chemistry in college and spent most of her summers working on research projects alongside her professors. It was there that Alexandra got clarity about what she wanted to do in the future. She now works full time in science research at a teaching university and is planning to go to medical school in a few years. She likes to stay up-to-date with the latest discoveries in science and share her love for science through her writing.