Fighting snowmelt with a windshield

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Geographer Hans-Joachim Fuchs is convinced that the use of windscreens to funnel kabatic winds (cold winds that blow downhill) in order to keep them on top of the mountains will help prevent glacier melt. An article in the German magazine, Der Spiegel, notes that researchers estimate that all  European’s glaciers will melt within the next thirty years.

The German professor is testing out his theory using the Rhone glacier in Switzerland as a testing site.  Together with 27 of his students, Fuchs is installing a “windscreen measuring 15 meters long (50 feet) and 3 meters high at an elevation of 2,300 meters (7,545 feet) on the leading edge of the glacier“.  Measurements by researchers have shown that the Rhône glacier is shrinking seven meters a year.

It seems most glacier experts are highly sceptical of Fuch’s experiment.  One glaciologist, Martin Funk from the Swiss Technical Institute (ETH) located in Zurich, Switzerland says that it’s the sun rays and atmosphere that account for most of glacial melt. Furthermore, “Even if you built a wind screen big enough, it’s doubtful whether you could meaningfully alter the wind patterns,” notes ETH Zurich glaciologist Andreas Bauder.

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Alpine windshield installation Rhône-Gletscher (August 2008).
Alpine windshield installation Rhône-Gletscher (August 2008).