Nutty Story of the Day #4: Germans apply glacier anti-melt screen

From Physorg.com

 The Swiss alpine region of Valais is pictured in February 2008. German researchers trying to slow melting glaciers have set up a large screen in the Swiss Alps that they hope will trap cold air over the icy mass Johannes Gutenberg University said Thu ...

The Swiss alpine region of Valais is pictured in February 2008. German researchers trying to slow melting glaciers have set up a large screen in the Swiss Alps that they hope will trap cold air over the icy mass, Johannes Gutenberg University said Thursday.

German researchers trying to slow melting glaciers have set up a large screen in the Swiss Alps that they hope will trap cold air over the icy mass, Johannes Gutenberg University said Thursday.

“We hope our installations will bring about a net cooling of the area. And if the melt is not stopped, that it is at least slowed,” the project’s leader, geography professor Hans-Joachim Fuchs, said in a statement.

The structure, 15 metres long and three metres high (49 feet by 10 feet), was raised in the middle of the Rhone glacier in Switzerland’s southwestern Valais region by 27 students from the German university.

The purpose of the screen — which sits at an altitude of 2,300 metres — is to keep cold winds over the glacier.

Already successfully tested in a laboratory, the experiment will be studied on site until August 21, according to the university, located in the German city of Mainz.

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53 thoughts on “Nutty Story of the Day #4: Germans apply glacier anti-melt screen

  1. Wouldn’t it be better, if one were really trying to prevent glacier reduction, to provide shade for the glacier?
    Therefore a high fence along the Southern ridges of the glacial valley?.

  2. Why am I not surprised by this, especially since Germany has such nice things as the “Ant Police.” I kid you not! As I understand it, if you get caught disturbing those precious little ants, you get a free ticket to jail.
    Actually, this professor has a good thing going for him: if a nature produced cold wave kicks in, he can say he can still claim a measure of success by downplaying nature. If it doesn’t and it actually works, he can say he’s successful. If the dumb idea doesn’t work, he can say AGW is too far advance to do anything. It’s a “win-win” for him!
    Jack Koenig, Editor
    The Mysterious Climate Project
    http://www.climateclinic.com

  3. Ilustrative of the nuttiness that AGW has caused. How many times have we been reminded recently – by Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 Mid-West flooding, the huge amounts of snow and ice received by states north of Mason Dixon (sorry, I am in NC), deserts in Iran seeing their first snows in 50 years, China’s huge economic crises caused by heavier than normal snows – how often must we be reminded that we do not and cannot control the large-scale climate systems that roam our planet. We never have and we never will.
    This latest effort is like a bunch of ants using a long piece of string to try to trip up a elephant. It’s absurd from the word go. It not only illustrates that man does not understand the complex functions and overall power of nature, it also illustrates that man by and large does not understand his role and place within that natural world. We can debate all long exactly what that is, but I believe many readers of this blog will say that THIS is most definitely NOT it.

  4. It might work and the screen is very small for the effect it might produce. But they might want to work on how to melt glaciers in a hurry if things get colder,

  5. Speaking of glaciers and snow, a bit off topic if you don’t mind, but anyone noticing all the snow in Colorado this evening? All the pass sites are reporting 1/4 or 1/2 mi visibility, I’m assuming there is quite a bit of snow in the highest of elevations from that cold-core system dropping down from Canada. I’m glad I’m not vacationing in Colorado this year as I often do in August. BRRR.

  6. A feel good story for the AGW crowd.
    Mankind saves the planet!
    Mankind saves Mother Nature!
    Mother Nature pays back such kindness with blizzards of the centuries. {Gotta give them flea specks some proper perspective.}

  7. While I am writing this (at 5 am) from Geneva, the outside temperature is 11°C. Some 100 km N-E from here the temperature is 5.4°C. The previous night, snowfall was recorded down to an altitude of 2000m.

  8. Yeah… that’s kind of ridiculous.
    Perhaps when this attempt fails, more of my fellow proponents will be persuaded that there is no “quick fix” to the climate change problem. We have to be pro-active and work diligently if we want to mitigate climate change; there are no easy fixes, just hard work. In my opinion, though, the benefits of that work will permeate many aspects of the economy and society for the better, make them very worthwhile.

  9. Does anyone have the thermodynamics of this enterprise?
    At the height of the glaciers the outside temperature is below freezing anyway. Or is this glacier below 1,5 km? I had the impression that one of the strong arguments against global warming is that glaciers can melt only by an increase of the absorption of direct radiation: sun or soot. Conduction cannot melt them.

  10. If they would recover a piece of wood exposed by those receding glaciers, I believe they would find that it carbon dates to about 5000 years ago. There have been several studies in the Alps doing just that. Apparently, the valleys where those glaciers are were forested at one point since the last ice age ended. It seems to me that the environment is simply “recovering” to what it was some 50 centuries ago.
    Actually, this isn’t about “the environment” at all. It is about money. That summer snow brings in a lot of cash. They can try to overpower Mother Nature, but she always bats last.

  11. Counters
    Please demonstrate what the climate change “problems” are that you refer to so blithely. Do you sincerely believe man can “mitigate” the climate?

  12. 480 sqft, about 1/5 the footprint of my modest house. Well, that’s going to make a difference.

  13. “The year was 1645, and the glaciers in the Alps were on the move. In Chamonix at the foot of Mont Blanc, people watched in fear as the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) glacier advanced. In earlier years, they had seen the slowly flowing ice engulf farms and crush entire villages.
    They turned to the Bishop of Geneva for help, and he made the journey to Chamonix. At the ice front he performed a rite of exorcism.
    Little by little, the glacier receded….”
    http://www.geology.um.maine.edu/ges121/lectures/11-little-ice-age/little-ice-age.html
    Theme and variation!

  14. 45 square metres? Won’t trap much air. Assuming this is shade, then it might stop about 4.5Kw/h if and when the sun shines. Over 21 days? Be interesting to know if it has any effect at all.

  15. I remember we were chatting at The Reference Frame (Motl’s blog) about the albedo a couple of years ago. As a joke I did propose, in order to reduce the average temp. of the Earth, to cover the whole Sahara with aluminium foil increasing thus the albedo from 0.4 (sand) to almost 1 (aluminium foil). Since Sahara is about 6% of the total land surface then increasing 100% the reflectivity of that surface should yield a net reduction of 1 or 2 °C for the whole earth. Of course we would need the whole worldwide production of aluminium foil during two or three years. This reminds me not to make jokes just in case someone takes them seriously 🙂
    best

  16. counters (21:11:50) wrote: “Perhaps when this attempt fails, more of my fellow proponents will be persuaded that there is no “quick fix” to the climate change problem. We have to be pro-active and work diligently if we want to mitigate climate change; there are no easy fixes, just hard work. In my opinion, though, the benefits of that work will permeate many aspects of the economy and society for the better, make them very worthwhile.”
    Another ‘off-the-wall” comment by counters. Since when do we have to mitigate nature? Understanding nature and making accommodations for its relentless moves is something mankind has always attempted. But mitigating?
    Come on counters, although we’ve heard worse from you, this is still ridiculous!
    Jack Koenig, Editor
    The Mysterious Climate Project
    http://www.climateclinic.com

  17. This is not the first such attempt to save the Alpine ski industry
    Revolutionary methods to preserve snow, the ‘Austrian gold’
    A news report from 2005 reports “Workers cover the ski slopes on the Pitztal Glacier in Austria with an innovative white fleece in an effort to protect the mountain from glacier melting”
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8432120/

  18. Okay, silly question:
    Why are we attempting to save glaciers? I’m not really sure what benefits are imparted by a huge, moving sheet of ice grinding its way through anything in its path.
    Melting glaciers are frequently touted as signs of GW, but come on, wouldn’t this be like trying to cure cancer by taking Tylenol?
    I wonder if at the end of the last Ice Age, as the glaciers were retreating all over the world, if some primitive version of a MoonBat tried to stop the melting. I suppose it would have gone a little something like this:
    “Ugh, Grog, quick get Mammoth skin. Glacier melts. Must be Ogg’s fault. He burning wood again.”

  19. Why is it necessary to “mitigate” climate change? Hasn’t the history of this planet been rife with a great deal of drastic climate change? I have difficulty believing that the earth merely popped into existence at given temperature, and has only now begun to experience climate change. Unless the AGW’s are pushing a religious point of view… That would explain the stable climate thingy.

  20. You watch, the next thing we hear about this will be of the massive fish die off due to “mitigating climate change”, and halting the normal melting of glaciers! Ironically, it will be hailed as another example of how unnatural (and just plain awful) mankind is! (After all, we merely popped into existence as well)

  21. Neil, I’ll refer you to the IPCC AR4; the case and conclusion is laid out plainly there. Yes, we can mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

  22. statePoet1775 (18:58:07) :
    “It might work and the screen is very small for the effect it might produce. But they might want to work on how to melt glaciers in a hurry if things get colder,”
    I’ve read that the Chinese are melting glaciers by spraying coal dust on them. They melt the glaciers to produce fresh water.

  23. This story brought back a lot of memories.
    We drove by the Rhone glacier in the summer of 1991. Only later did I realize the road through this region was the backdrop for several of the scenes in Goldfinger. I was watching a rerun on TV and recognized the setting, including a shot of the Rhone glacier.
    It was also the same year the Iceman was discovered in another part of the Alps we had driven through earlier.
    At the time it was believed the ice melt through out the Alps was attributed to the soot released by Saddam’s burning of the oil fields. When the hikers went through the area, the ice was at historic lows and portions of his body were revealed.
    It turns out he was the victim of foul play or combat. There was a big fight between Italy and Austria over possession of the body. I don’t recall what honorary citizenship was finally bestowed on our bronze age visitor. He also believed in acupuncture.
    http://www.crystalinks.com/oetzi.html
    We stayed with friends close to the town of Montana and observed the fireworks set off for the celebration of Switzerland’s 700th anniversary on August 1, 1991.
    If a home overlooking the Rhone Valley in Switzerland is not heaven on earth, there is no such thing.

  24. Put a good white blanket over the glacier and it wouldn’t melt at all. (Even a black one would work.)
    Of course, that would take a lot of material and resources. And you wouldn’t get to see the actual glacier. And the rivers fed by the glacier would dry up and the towns depending on the melt-water would need to find another water source and the fish in the river would die and the …
    REPLY: and then there’s that inconvenient sublimation. Ice evaporates. Try putting a couple of ice cubes in a sock, put them in your frost free freezer for a month, then try to find the ice cubes.

  25. I’ve lost count of the times, in internet debates, that warmists have cited the entire IPCC report to support their position.
    It’s fascinating just how much like a religion this whole global warming thing has become.
    But one advantage the warmists have is that they can update their Bible every 5 years.

  26. We have to be pro-active and work diligently if we want to mitigate climate change; there are no easy fixes, just hard work.
    LOL, counters! The idea of “mitigating climate change” is even nuttier than the above story. Climate changes – it always has, and always will. Man’s effect on climate via C02 simply amounts to noise, so adaptation is the key. The .6 deg warming of the past century has actually been a boon to mankind, as has the rise in C02. Adapting to the coming cold will be far, far harder, particularly if we foolishly waste time and resources on “mitigating” something we have no control over whatsoever. But, you, counters, like all AGWers insist on remaing in a fantasy world. Wake up, for crying out loud.

  27. As others have mentioned, it’s when glaciers are advancing that we have to watch out. Brian Fagan mentions in his book The Little Ice Age, that when the Bishop of Geneva arrived to perform his exorcism, the Les Bois glacier was advancing “by over a musket shot [120 meters] every day, even in the month of August.” Astonishing, if it’s accurate. Can anyone confirm whether glaciers are able to move this fast?
    Re New Scientist, I’m not a subscriber but managed to skim the “Climate change: The next ten years” story in the paper edition when I was in the supermarket last week. The gist of it, as far as I recall, is that there seems to be plenty of uncertainty as to what will happen to climate change in the next few years but indications are that global warming will come back with a vengeance sometime soon. That’s a bit vague but I was in a hurry and thinking about lunch. Oh, and they also quote Michael Mann.

  28. I’m with Sean G. Why are they trying to stop the glacier from melting? I can understand if it’s an essential resource to their skiing industry but I didn’t think people ski’d on glaciers. I thought they’d be full of crevices and debris. The way the article is written, it’s as if the Germans think they can stop global warming by stopping the glaciers from melting. That’s a little like thinking you can put out a house fire by somehow preventing the fabrics from scorching. “If people would just stop running around screaming ‘FIRE!’ we wouldn’t be having this problem.”
    I guess this sort of insanity will spread. We’ll keep all the polar bears on life support somehow, and tow all the iceburgs north to the dwindling ice pack and re-attach them with ice cream caulk. Damming up the rushing waters from the Greenland ice melt would be the next step. Send some snow machines down to replenish the peak of Kiliamanjaro and all will be well. Global warming stopped in it’s tracks.

  29. Neil, I’ll refer you to the IPCC AR4; the case and conclusion is laid out plainly there. Yes, we can mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
    Yes, and that’s entirely beliveable because of all the model forecasts have been dead on accurate.

  30. Why do we have to mitigate climate change? Because it brings uncertainty. It makes people worry. Can’t have that. The politicos have to be seen as doing something. We really don’t know what will happen, but we have to stop it. No matter how much it costs. Our government will protect us. If it doesn’t work, it will be because we didn’t spend enough money on it.
    The reality is that nothing we do will have much effect. “reducing greenhouse gas emissions will mitigate climate change” What if greenhouse gas emissions don’t cause climate change? The reduction will certainly “mitigate” the economy. If enough people die from food shortages, there won’t be as many protesters (OK, that’s harsh)
    I fail to see how 45 sq.m will change anything. Why do I suspect a government grant had some influence here…

  31. Jack Simmons said: “At the time it was believed the ice melt through out the Alps was attributed to the soot released by Saddam’s burning of the oil fields. When the hikers went through the area, the ice was at historic lows and portions of his body were revealed.”
    Jack, I have to wonder if the ice was really at a “historic low”… after all, he was buried UNDER the ice.

  32. Counters
    Gee, never thought you’d come back with that one!
    I can’t help but think that people who believe that man can mitigate or modify our planet’s climate – in either direction – are kidding themselves.

  33. Alexjc,

    See how far New Scientist has descended as a meaningful magazine; it is now hawked in supermarkets alongside national Enquire, which at least has the attribute of being entertaining.

  34. Alexjc,
    Re New Scientist, I’m not a subscriber but managed to skim the “Climate change: The next ten years” story in the paper edition when I was in the supermarket last week.”
    See how far New Scientist has descended as a meaningful magazine; it is now hawked in supermarkets alongside national Enquire, which at least has the attribute of being entertaining.

  35. Counters: Your assertion that mankind can mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions assumes that greenhouse gases have more than a negligible impact on climate. Big assumption.

  36. Counters, re: your post to Neil saying:
    “Neil, I’ll refer you to the IPCC AR4; the case and conclusion is laid out plainly there.”
    I’ll refer you to Anthony’s posting called “The Tale of the Hockey Stick.” That accounting alone, at the least, shoots a big hole in AR4.
    There is a place for environmentalism but, similar to religion, that place is not in government regulations. And more importantly, nothing man will ever do short of thermonuclear war, will ever change the climate of this planet in any direction we would desire, whether we wanted eternal snow or Eden-like warmth.

  37. I think there is a narrow point in a valley that the screen is placed in to block the flow of air above the glacier. By trapping a layer of air above the glacier, heat gain might be reduced. Just a guess. I don’t see how else a small screen could work.

  38. Sean G
    I certainly appreciate your point.
    Generally when one says historic, it refers to something actually written down in someone’s history. Unfortunately, no one recorded what was going on at the time of the Iceman’s internment.
    Another critical factor in his preservation was the placement of his remains in a shallow depression in the rock. Thus melting water tended to gather in a pool about the remains, which would freeze in the winter. Also, moving snow and ice would pass over the body.
    You might want to get the book “The Man In The Ice” by Konrad Spindler. I was fascinated enough by the story I obtained a copy for my own library.
    Here’s the passage covering the discovery:
    “Later, Helmut Simon would describe their discovery to us like this: ‘From a distance of 8 or 10 metres we suddenly saw something brown sticking out of the ice. Our first thought was that it was rubbish, perhaps a doll, because by now there is plenty of litter even in the high mountains. As we came closer, Erika said: “But it’s a man!”‘ Helmut Simon immediately ran back to get the Austrian couple, from whom they had parted shortly before. But they were no longer in sight.
    Sticking out of the ice is a leather-brown round bald skull with a medallion-sized injury. Also visible are the shoulders and back, draped against a rock. The face is immersed in water, with dirt around the chin. The arms cannot be seen, and seem to be missing. Because of its delicate proportions, Erika suggests that it is the body of a woman.”
    The book is a great read.
    Oh here’s the fun part:
    “The intersection of the red cross on the stone on which the corpse had lain is exactly 92.56 metres from the state frontier, on Italian territory.”
    How could I forgotten that detail?
    I guess he was going to be treated to pasta and wine instead of strudel and beer.
    Certainly if he had been exposed to the air earlier, nothing would have survived; or at least not as much as they did get.
    I do know the snow and ice levels were very low that summer in the Alps because our hosts commented on the fact. There was extensive coverage of the effects of the oil fields being set on fire by Saddam when he exited Kuwait. I seem to recall a Nature article on the distribution of the soot reaching all the way up to Europe.

  39. statePoet1775 (19:32:15) :
    “I think there is a narrow point in a valley that the screen is placed in to block the flow of air above the glacier. By trapping a layer of air above the glacier, heat gain might be reduced. Just a guess. I don’t see how else a small screen could work.”
    You mean trapping this air loaded with CO2 that will reflect back radiation and melt the glacier more?
    The whole thing is bizarre. The only thermodynamic reality would be if the glacier was melting by convection, air above the melting point of ice continually flowing over the surface, and this flow is interrupted.
    If it is melting by retaining radiation( soot), or excess sun radiation, only a shade could help as somebody here observed.
    We need temperatures over the glacier. The average global temperature at http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/
    at 1 km height is always below the melting point ,4C .( that is why glaciers survive in the mountains) so I cannot see how the glacier could be melting from convection and be protected by aerodynamic means.

  40. “The only thermodynamic reality would be if the glacier was melting by convection, air above the melting point of ice continually flowing over the surface, and this flow is interrupted.” anna v
    Combining comments from Anthony about sublimation and yours about air temps over glaciers, how about this? The screen is there to prevent lower humidity air from replacing the saturated air over the glacier. I don’t see how this would reduce melting, though.

  41. Discovery channel has been hyping a new series about bizare new schemes to counteract global warming. Everything from seaborne cloud generators to wrapping glaciers in blankets.
    The nuttiness gets worse every year.
    (My guess is that they are trying to hype up these solutions, so that when it is shown that global warming has stopped, they can claim credit.)

  42. So far, the only noticeable affect of enhanced CO2, is that plants grow faster and need less water.
    Why would we want to mitigate that?

  43. I don’t object to thinking outside the box. Yes, most of it is silly 9prima facie) but that is the nature of such things.
    Stipulating AGW is valid (which I sincerely doubt), I would much rather see some solution other than that advocated by Kyoto or the Stern Review. Any solution.

  44. “Ugh, Grog, quick get Mammoth skin. Glacier melts. Must be Ogg’s fault. He burning wood again.”

    “*grunt*, no, Og, must be mammoth farts. Must kill off all mammoths!”

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