Blankets are generally used to provide heat but did you know they could be used to cool things down? A very important and exceptional use of blankets is being carried out by scientists in China where they are covering up remote glaciers under large sheets.
This is not the kind we use at homes. These blankets are made of very expensive and advanced geotextile which is environment-friendly. But why do the scientists need to cover glaciers? One might ask. They are using these blankets as a preventive method to slow down the melting of the glaciers because of global warming. The blanket acts as a shield between the glacier surface and the sun thereby prohibiting direct solar radiation and heat.
The notion that blankets can somehow stop the fast heating isn’t unfounded. While the surface temperature of the earth will definitely impact the rate glaciers melt, removing the sun’s direct heat will slow down the melting. The idea has been confirmed by seven-year-long research in the country.
Apart from China, the same method has been used in Switzerland for over a decade. Local population around Rhone Glacier have been trekking up since 2009 to cover the glaciers in the Southern Swiss Alps in white thermal blankets.
As for the blankets in China, scientists have used the environment-friendly geofabric to create blankets for over 500-square-metre (5,381-square-foot) area of Dagu. The area is a site of concern as it is one of the fast-melting glaciers in south-western China’s Sichuan Province.
Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources researchers led this project. The glacier they chose, Dagu, is a temperate glacier which means it contains liquid water as well as solid ice. It had also been melting faster than their other options.
Wang Feiteng and his team started the project last August. They have said that the rate of melting has decreased significantly since they covered the area. Wang has further urged the citizens and scientific communities to look into the fate of smaller glaciers.
As a result of human intervention, activities, industries, and global warming, glaciers have suffered a lot in the past decades. He told the local broadcaster CCTV that China has a multitude of small glaciers (under 1 KM) which will be soon erased unless they intervene to save these icy rivers.
Glaciers are a source of freshwater for rivers and faster melting would mean two things: first, faster depletion of the limited freshwater resources; second, excess water will flow into the oceans causing the sea-levels to rise and subsequent flooding of all coastal areas.