Wednesday, May 11, 2005

IT'S HAPPENING

People are growing desperate...
May 11, 2005


Will wrapping a glacier in PVC stop it from melting?

Alok Jha
Thursday April 14, 2005
The Guardian

Yes. Next month, 32,000 sq ft of the Gurschen glacier in Switzerland will be swathed in a half-inch-thick PVC coat in an attempt to halt its continuing decline.

According to a study by scientists at Zurich University, the glaciers in Europe are receding at an alarming rate. They predict that 70% of Switzerland's glaciers will have melted over the next 30 years and blame increasing summer temperatures, due to global climate change.

To stem the melting, the Swiss will try to protect the Gurschen glacier from the harsh rays of the sun."You have to reflect as much [radiation] as possible," says Magnus Magnusson, general secretary of the International Glaciological Society. "I assume they would be using white material with a high reflectance."

It's not the first time that a plan like this has been proposed: covering icebergs in plastic to stop them melting was also mooted in plans for towing ice from the poles to provide desert areas with fresh water.

The PVC method also mimics a more natural situation where, sometimes, glaciers or ice fields are covered in gravel or other debris. "The gravel insulates the ice from the atmosphere," says Magnusson, and that prevents it from melting.

Some scientists argue that maintaining the world's glaciers is important because, by reflecting away lots of the sun's radiation, they play a vital role in keeping the Earth's temperature down.

But Magnusson says that covering a small part of Switzerland is unlikely to make much difference to the rest of the world.

"Antarctica is the major ice mass and then you have the Arctic and then Greenland," he says. "The glaciers in Switzerland, yes they're important for the local climate, but the proportion of ice in central Europe is rather minuscule compared to the rest of the world."

Green groups are also critical of the PVC plan because, they say, it focuses resources too heavily on the symptoms, rather than the causes, of climate change.

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