Melting Glacier in Italy Gets a Giant Thermal Blanket

Melting Glacier in Italy Gets a Giant Thermal Blanket

In hopes of slowing the rate at which ice is melting in the mountains of northern Italy, officials have begun covering one their most threatened glaciers with insulating fabric, creating what is essentially a giant security blanket to help keep the ice from melting in the summer heat. It may sound a bit unusual, but tests have shown that the thermal blanket may be just the thing to save the region's glaciers from disappearing completely, for the time being, at least.

Armed with nearly 970 thousand square feet of 4 millimeter thick thermal material, workers scramble to cover the highly threatened Presena glacier to protect it from the sun's ultraviolet rays. With any luck, the insulating material reduce the amount of ice that melts from the summer heat until it's removed at the end of the season.

This isn't the first time Italy has used this material to help preserve its glaciers. Two years back, a smaller-scale test was made and the results showed it to be quite effective. Ice covered by the insulating material melted 60 percent less than exposed portions which lost an average of 5 feet in thickness during the test.

The creative plan couldn't come at a better time for the glaciers in Italy's Province of Trento, which, like many of the world's glaciers, has seen dramatic decreases in recent decades. According to BBC Brasil, between 1993 and 2003 alone, Trento's Presena glacier lost as much as 39 percent of its total mass.

And the culprit? You guessed it.

"One thing is certain: the melting of glaciers occurs because of the increase in global temperature," Nicola Paoli, an environmental engineer, tells BBC Brasil. "In the last four, five years , we observed that the melting snow has doubled compared to normal rhythm."

Unfortunately, no matter how ambitious or creative such local efforts may be in regions of the world most effected by rising temperatures, it is a global problem that will take an international effort to mitigate. So despite all the hard work to save the Presena glacier, it may be only delaying the inevitable.

July 9, 2019
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