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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

A crazy plan to re-freeze the arctic isn’t as crazy as it sounds, and now Swiss scientists are trying it out to regrow their glaciers.

 

Earlier in the year a team of scientists announced their outlandish plans to re-freeze the Arctic by installing no less than 10 million wind powered snow pumps across the ice cap to replenish the dwindling sea ice.

 

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The idea was so wild, and so expensive, coming in at around $400 Billion that no one actually thought it would go anywhere, but now researchers in Switzerland have just launched a trial that will see if they can sustain an entire glacier through the summer months using nothing more than snow machines.

If the team manages to successfully preserve a small, artificial glacier at the foot of the Diavolezzafirn glacier in the south eastern part of Switzerland through the year’s hottest months, it’s hoped that they can apply the same technique to the country’s giant Morteratsch glacier.

One of the largest glaciers in the eastern alps, this vast valley glacier has been retreating fast thanks to rising global temperatures and it’s currently retreating at a rate of 30 to 40 metres every year.

 

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As a consequence, it could be that the only hope for Switzerland’s giant is to use thousands of snow machines to blast it with artificial snow – and if all this sounds too far out there then scientists have actually done the maths  and it turns out that it’s technically feasible to use snow machines to rebuild glaciers – and replenish vanishing sea ice.

Who knew!?

While we’d need at least 10 million snow blowers to re-freeze the Arctic though it’s reckoned that we’d only need about 4,000 to help the Morteratsch glacier not only stop retreating, but actually grow in the coming decades.

The basic idea is that the ice on the glacier is now being exposed to sunlight, but if the team, led by Jaad Oerlemans can cover the ice in thick, artificial snow, it could reflect the light before it gets a chance to melt the layers of ice below.

 

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Oerlemans presented his plan at the recent annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria.

“Looking at previous work showing that natural snow can help glaciers grow, we’ve concluded that the glacier could regain up to 800 metres of length within 20 years if it had a covering,” he said, “we’ve worked out that just a few centimetres of artificial snow blown onto a 0.5 square-kilometre plateau high up the glacier each summer could be enough to protect the ice beneath.”

Of course, the plan isn’t as colossal as the Arctic one, but it’s still huge, and would require a lot of funding, but Oerlemans and his team are quietly confident.

 

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For the past decade, the Diavolezzafirn glacier has been having artificial snow added to it over the winter months to improve the ski season and locals in the area have seen as this extra snow help the small glacier grow by up to 8 metres in the past 10 years. It’s this scheme that’s now going to be extended after the team managed to secure $100,000 in funding for it, and if the trial’s successful then who knows the Arctic could be next… and at a time when scientists have gone on record to say the Arctic is “unravelling” if it’s not a Plan A then maybe it could be a Plan B.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the 311 Institute, a global futures and deep futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future.” Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, CNBC, Discovery, RT, and Viacom, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, BOA, Blackrock, Bentley, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, Du Pont, E&Y, GEMS, HPE, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, UBS, and many more.

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