Fighting snowmelt with a windshield

Caitlin Dempsey


Geographer Hans-Joachim Fuchs is convinced that the use of windscreens to funnel katabatic 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.

A photograph of peaks and glaciers in the Swiss Alps taken from the International Space Station.
Glaciers in the Jungfrau-Aletsch protected area in the Swiss Alps. Photo: Astronaut photograph  ISS048-E-72253, September 3, 2016, public domain.

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.

Free weekly newsletter

Fill out your e-mail address to receive our newsletter!

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.

Read more:


Gardent, M., Rabatel, A., Dedieu, J. P., & Deline, P. (2014). Multitemporal glacier inventory of the French Alps from the late 1960s to the late 2000s. Global and Planetary Change120, 24-37.

Photo of author
About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.