For a decade, tourists have been traveling to the high Alps of southern Switzerland with a wish to walk inside a glacier. In 1870, a regional family got the idea of digging a 100-metered shallow tunnel inside the Rhone glacier. Paying visitors could walk through a frozen alcove straight out of a fairy tale. However, in recent times, global warming has posed a grave threat to the glacier. With the slightest glacier movement, ice melts, so at the beginning of every summer season, the tourist cave has to be carved anew.
According to the experts, the glacier has changed in the last few years and is expected to entirely disappear in the coming years. To slow down the ice melting, the cave carving family suggested a solution of covering a portion of the glacier with protective fleece blankets to reflect the sunlight.
As a preventive measure, huge blankets or a polyester fleece might appear like a quick-fix or gimmick, but they could diminish seasonal melting by up to 70% each year during the summer months. It radiates the sun’s energy back into the atmosphere, avoiding melt and also preserving the ice that fell on the glacier during the winter. A handful of workers would then be needed to remove the blankets and utilize the fresh covering of snow to fill in the cracks on the glacier’s surface.
The primary goal of the government is to insulate the exposed glacier’s ice by reflecting most of the sun’s energy by using white fleece protectors. According to the Swiss government, 90% of its glaciers will be eliminated by the end of the century if no solution is found to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the glacier experts, the size of the fleece blankets needs to be big enough to have any sort of effect. For this purpose, many workers are diligently sewing blankets together to cover the glaciers, whilst other countries, including Italy and Germany look set to be implementing this unique solution too.