If an area of 0.8 km2 would be covered by artifical snow every summer, the glacier retreat would stop after 10 to15 years.
What happened so far
Since the last maximum stand around 1850
the Morteratsch glacier retreated more than 2.8 km.
The snout of the Morteratsch glacier reached at this time close to the present railway station.
In 2018 the glacier covered an area of approximately
7.5 km2, which corresponds to 1050 football fields.
During the last 20 years the glacier front retreated
on average by 44 m per year
Consequences of glacier retreat
1) Loss of water reservoirs which are of great existential importance for arid mountain regions (Himalaya, Andes)
2) Decreasing water supply to big river systems during hot and dry summer periods
3) Formation of new lakes with risk of outbursts
Snow as the protector of glaciers
Snow protects the underlying ice against melting because it has an insulating effect and reflects a large part of the solar radiation. As long as the glacier is covered with snow, ice will not melt.
If enough snow can be produced with melt-water recycling to keep a part of the glacier snow covered during the summer, the glacier would be protected from melting.
It is possible to produce snow without electrical energy with the Swiss patented NESSy ZeroE. Only 200 meters’ altitude differences between the water source and the snow cable is necessary to create the needed 20 bar pressure in the water pipe.
A model calculation showed that 0.8 km2 of the glacier must be kept snow covered over summer to protect the glacier from melting (for a climate change scenario with a temperature rise of maximum 0.022°C per year).
This would be enough to prevent further glacier retreat
after 10 to 15 years.
The water required to produce snow could be taken from
a melt-water lake.
With the new snowmaking system, the so-called snow cable, enough snow could be produced on the glacier and distributed over the planned area.
Maintenance of the glacier with melt water recycling could save the livelihood of these people and avoid migration and further conflicts.
The areas coloured in red indicate cold arid regions, where glacier maintenance by means of snowmaking could be climatically feasible.
Photos: Christine Levy