Chinese scientists cover glacier with blankets to slow melt

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LANZHOU-Wrapping glaciers in giant blankets might be an effective way to slow the melting of rapidly retreating ice, according to a Chinese research team.

The team with Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources under the Chinese Academy of Sciences set up a 500-square-meter experiment area at Dagu Glacier in the northwestern Sichuan Province last August, covering the area with geotextile blankets, a type of environmental-friendly fabric. After about two and a half months, the researchers found that the ice in the covered area had melted about one meter less than that in the uncovered area. It demonstrates the blankets’ capacity to block solar radiation and heat exchange on the surface of the glacier, according to Wang Feiteng, one of the researchers. Wang said the melting of glaciers worldwide has gained pace in recent years with global climate change. In particular, small glaciers with an area smaller than 1 square km might soon disappear without human intervention.

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However, global research on glaciers has focused on the glacial change process and mechanism, with relatively less academic attention paid to finding solutions to glacial melting, he said.

He added that the team will pilot their heat-blocking method on other glaciers in China that have been severely affected by climate change and those with rich tourism resources.

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