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Climate Experts Cover Shrinking Italian Glacier With Cloth to Save it From Summer Heat

Large white geotextile sheets are seen covering northern Italy's Presena glacier in order to delay snow melting on skiing slopes and reflect sunlight during summer.

REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

Large white geotextile sheets are seen covering northern Italy's Presena glacier in order to delay snow melting on skiing slopes and reflect sunlight during summer. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

Atop the glacier and surrounded by stunning wide peaks, a team unfurls 5-metre-wide and 70-metre-long strips to cover some 120,000 square metres of the glacier.

Battling to save northern Italy’s Presena glacier from further shrinking, climate experts are covering it with long strips of cloth which will reflect the sun’s rays and prevent the snow beneath from melting. They say about 70% of the snow can be saved over the summer with the protective covering which works in the same way as a silver reflective guard placed in a car window to stop overheating.

Atop the glacier and surrounded by stunning wide peaks, a team unfurls 5-metre-wide and 70-metre-long strips to cover some 120,000 square metres of the glacier. The task takes a month to complete. The process has been carried out every year since 2008.

“Glaciers and their retreat are perhaps the most striking manifestation of ongoing global warming," said glaciologist Christian Casarotto of Trento science museum, adding glacier mass had been falling continuously for the last 15 to 20 years.

“Studying glaciers therefore becomes important in order to understand the direction in which we are heading and to be able to correct it," he added.

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Evironmentalists are constantly warning the world about the global warming-induced melting of glaciers in Antarctica and the dangers it poses. Thwaites and the nearby Pine Island Glacier are two of the biggest and fastest-retreating glaciers in Antarctica. A recent study of the Thwaites Glacier - also known as the ‘Doomsday Glacier’ - by scientists in a Swedish university has found that the glacier was melting much faster than previously anticipated.

The rapidly melting Thwaites Glacier already contributes four percent to the global rise in sea-levels and is currently estimated to survive for over half a century before it finally gets dissolved completely. Previous studies such as one conducted in 2020 have shown that glaciers like the Thwaites and Pine Island Glacier are losing ice at a rapid pace, a phenomenon that may cause the ice shelves to break apart.

Similarly, the footprints of climate change are evident in the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges where increased glacial melt, hazardous events, changes in snowfall patterns are all combining to alter the water supplies of downstream countries which depend on rivers emerging from these ranges.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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first published:July 11, 2021, 11:31 IST