Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chamonix Glacier Goes Under Wraps

The Compagnie du Mont-Blanc has invested in new measures to protect the Argentière glacier in the Chamonix Valley. The final part of the glacier at Argentière has been given a protective summer coat in a bit of slow down its thawing as a result of climate change.
A 750m² tarpaulin has been stretched out over the glacier to protect it from melting under the summer sun. The cover should maintain a maximum volume of ice at the bergschrund as well as limiting the rays of sunlight that would otherwise be reflected around the icy surface. "This technique of ice covering has already proven itself on Swiss glacier and is required to keep a maximum volume of ice on the mountain while limiting the action of sunlight reflection", said a statement from the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc. The approximate cost is € 3,000.
The project is temporary and the tarpaulin will be taken down in mid-October, the first major snowfall on winter 2011-12 is forecast.
The lift company has advised those hiking or mountaineering in the area that it’s dangerous to walk on the tarpaulin and that they should use marked routes around it.
This technique of covering the ice (glacier wrapping) has already been used in the Gurschen glacier (Andermatt, Switzerland), the Mont Fort glacier (Verbier, Switzerland), the Vorab glacier (Laax, Switzerland), the Zugspitze glacier (Garmisch-Partenkitchen, Germany), and the Stubai and Pitztal Glaciers (Tirol, Austria) and is considered to be an effective method of slowing down glacial shrinkage. The protective foil is a combination of polyester and polypropylene material which when placed on the glacier prevents the top snow layer from melting, essentially keeping the cold in and the heat out.

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