Cover glacier with blankets to slow melt

2021-01-06 04:11:42 GMT2021-01-06 12:11:42(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

Wrapping glaciers in giant blankets might be an effective way to slow the melting of rapidly retreating ice, according to a Chinese research team.

The team with Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources under the Chinese Academy of Sciences set up a 500-square-meter experiment area at Dagu Glacier in the northwestern Sichuan Province last August, covering the area with geotextile blankets, a type of environmental-friendly fabric.

After about two and a half months, the researchers found that the ice in the covered area had melted about one meter less than that in the uncovered area.

It demonstrates the blankets’ capacity to block solar radiation and heat exchange on the surface of the glacier, according to Wang Feiteng, one of the researchers.

Wang said the melting of glaciers worldwide has gained pace in recent years with global climate change. In particular, small glaciers with an area smaller than 1 square kilometer might soon disappear without human intervention.

However, global research on glaciers has focused on the glacial change process and mechanism, with relatively less academic attention paid to finding solutions to glacial melting, he said.

He added that the team will pilot their heat-blocking method on other glaciers in China that have been severely affected by climate change and those with rich tourism resources.

According to a study from NIEER’s researchers, climate change could lead to more cryospheric hazards, posing extensive threats to society.

The cryosphere mainly refers to glaciers, permafrost, snow cover and sea ice as these components are continuously distributed below the freezing point with a certain thickness.

Storing more than 70 percent of the world’s freshwater resources, the cryosphere plays an important role in supporting key elements of the Earth’s life system, such as water resources, energy and food security.

These components are sensitive to climate warming, and changes in the cryosphere can lead to serious hazards to human society. Although the hazards attracted much public attention, there is still no synthetic review for the changes of cryospheric hazards in the past decades.

By analyzing phenomena, mechanisms and impacts of different types of cryospheric hazards, researchers from NIEER under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou University and Lanzhou University of Technology enumerated possible cryospheric hazards that could occur due to climate change, and further gave suggestions on approaches to mitigate these hazards in the future.

Climate change can lead to a series of hazards, including arctic coastal erosion, rise in sea levels, avalanches and glacial flooding and collapse, among others.

For example, arctic permafrost accounts for one-third of the global coastline, and coastline erosion directly reflects land-ocean interactions. The irreversible coastal and land loss poses a considerable threat to native, industrial, scientific and even military communities, according to the study.

Coastal areas are where most human activities occur at high latitudes, and their erosion can lead to landslides and further affect the safety of major construction projects such as harbors, pipelines and rail construction.

Add Comment