Swaddling a Glacier

27 May 2005

Ski resorts near glaciers are sweating over global warming, as shrinkage of these rivers of ice threatens the operators’ pocketbooks.

The latest stopgap measure is worthy of the artist Christo: In the Swiss Alps, an operator of a cable car that ferries skiers up to the Gurschen glacier has covered 3000 square meters of the glacier with a huge sheet of fleece-like material.

The glacier’s melting top end has sunk about 20 meters over the last 15 years, and so each year the resort has had to build a ramp of snow to it from the cable-car stop. The $25,000 blanket would reflect sunlight to keep the ramp from melting each summer and preserve the patch of glacier underneath.

Glaciologist Wilfried Haeberli of the University of Zurich says that although glaciers have been melting for the past century, they usually erode at the bottom. But now, as temperatures rise and snow lines climb, tops of glaciers are melting too. Losing ski runs is not the only problem: With perma-frost melting under cable-car stations, resort owners are injecting concrete into the ground to shore up the foundations.


books I've read on failure & grace

The World Without Us
The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Hell and High Water: Global Warming--the Solution and the Politics--and What We Should Do
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
The Tipping Point
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization
Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850
Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Mason's favorite books »