Home / Science / It's this time of the year when the Swiss wrap their famous glacier in blankets – and hope | MNN

It's this time of the year when the Swiss wrap their famous glacier in blankets – and hope | MNN

The Swiss have always had a cozy relationship with their mountains.

But there is no time in the year that seems to demonstrate this particular connection as the beginning of summer. Then the conservationists go to these towering heights and wear massive white blankets.

The big scheme? To capture critical stretches of the Rhône Glacier – six square miles of ice, considered the oldest and most important glacier in the country – in its fluffy folds. And though it seems a gentle gesture, like a mother moving a child in for the night, the idea is not to keep the glacier warm. It is actually the opposite.

The blankets are intended to divert the sun's light and envelop the massive glacier like a freezer bag to protect it from the dangers of the summer sun.

And nowadays, the glaciers of the world need all the help they can get. As the planet gets warmer every year, the glaciers melt at an unprecedented rate.

In Switzerland, climate change has compounded the typical summer melt of the Rhône glacier – which supplies the famous Rhône in Europe – from a trickle to a torrent.

Over the past 150 years, this has added up to a 4,600-foot retreat.

 Rhone glacier and lake where the Rhone begins
The Rhone Glacier and the glacial lake marking the birth of the Rhone in the Swiss Alps. (Photo: mountainpix / Shutterstock)

Call the charge of the ceiling brigade.

"In the last eight years, they had to cover the ice cave with these blankets to reduce ice melt," says David Volken, glaciologist at the Swiss Ministry of the Environment, AFP.

The UV-resistant ceilings, according to people, would have reduced the ice melt by up to 70 percent by covering about six hectares of glaciers.

But it has made the slope we stand on just a little less slippery. And when people, the main culprits of climate change, make fundamental changes to reach the big picture, there will not be enough blankets in the world to ward off the catastrophic consequences of rising sea levels.

And those dreamy white blankets over the Rhone?

"It will slow things down for a year or two," says Jean-Pierre Guignard, who visited the glacier decades ago when he was much taller, Metro UK. "But someday they'll have to take the blankets because the underlying ice will have disappeared."

For now, good night, sweet glaciers. Sleep well. And do not let climate change bite.

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