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  HOME | Science, Nature & Technology

Italian Glacier Wrapped in Vast Sheet to Prevent Thawing

ROME – A team of Italian experts has covered a huge glacier in northern Italy with a vast tarpaulin to stop it from melting in the summer sun.

The Presena glacier in the province of Trento has lost a third of its volume as a result of climate change in the last 30 years.

“Every summer we cover it with huge tarps, which reflect sunlight and keep the temperature lower than outside,” says Davide Panizza, head of Carosello Tonale, the company responsible for the project, which began in 2008 and has expanded the area covered each year. “We do it to try to protect the glacier mass as much as possible.”

In 2008, an area spanning 30,000 square meters was covered. This year, a team of 13 is working to protect a surface of 100,000 square meters, the equivalent of 10 soccer fields.

Work to shield the glacier, located in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of the Alps at an altitude of between 2,700 and 3,000 meters, started this week. It will take a month to cover the full area and tarpaulins measuring 350 square meters will be used for the operation. They will be sewn together with specialized machines to avoid any gaps that would allow solar rays to filter through.

The glacier will remain covered until September, when the same team will remove the vast sheets, a task that will take a month meaning that by October the glacier will be able to breathe again in time to soak up the first snowfalls.

The arduous operation costs more than €300,000 a year but has reduced the melting of the glacier by 50 percent in the last decade, a resounding success given that without the large awnings “the entire mass of 2,900 meters of ice below would have already disappeared,” according to Panizza.

Unfortunately, the fabric does not completely stop the thawing, which continues its course as climate change advances.

“The continuous increase in temperatures exponentially accelerates the melting of the glacier, there is no doubt that climate change directly influences this phenomenon,” says Panizza. “We try to slow down this process, but we cannot stop it 100 percent.

“The glacier is constantly regressing,” he adds. “If pollution levels are not reduced globally and climate change continues, even faster than today, we can do nothing to stop its disappearance. Its extinction will occur in a few years.”

The Presena glacier still stands, but more than 200 other alpine glaciers have disappeared in recent decades. These dramatic events will continue at an unstoppable speed if humans continue to pollute and damage the planet.

Panizza says global lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have led to a significant reduction in pollution levels.

“It is true that in the Presena glacier area the pollution levels are lower, but the reduction of pollution globally has repressed an increase in temperatures and there is no doubt that the Earth has been able to breathe a little more these months.”


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