Snow Machines Could Re-Grow Glaciers


Snow Machines Could Re-Grow Glaciers

A scientist has calculated that using machine-made snow on glaciers could help regrow them, if you use enough snowmaking machines (and presumably running on green energy). Hans Oerlemans of Utrecht University is set to test his theory this summer on a small glacier at the foot of Diavolezzafirn, close to St Moritz in southeast Switzerland.

Most glaciers around the world are melting increasingly quickly as a result of climate change, and a good number have disappeared altogether. The glacier Mr Oerlemans will be coating with snow is shrinking at an average of 30m each year.

According to a report in New Scientist magazine, Mr Oerlemans’ theory is that coating the glacier with just a few centimetres of snow will cause the sunlight to be reflected off it, allowing it to recover. He has calculated that if he had 4,000 snow machines running on the glacier for 20 years, he could regrow the glacier by 800m.

However, the pilot project is much smaller than that and has just under a CHF100,000 (around £74,450) budget. It is the latest in a series of attempts to save glaciers, which have included covering sections with reflective material, and Whistler Blackcomb in BC Canada has also been experimenting with snowmaking on its glacier.

Switzerland had its warmest ever December in 2015 followed by its driest ever December last year, and a study published in the autumn reported that the country had 40 fewer snow days a season compared to the 1970s. Ski resorts at both low and high altitudes saw snow arrive, on average, 12 days later and disappear 25 days earlier in 2015 than in 1970