Helags Glacier in the summer, Source: NH2501, on Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Special cloth saved Swedish glacier from melting in summer

Special cloth saved Swedish glacier from melting in summer

The first time this approach was tried out in Scandinavia

A cloth sheet was used to protect a part of the Helags Glacier in northern Sweden during the summer with the result that it helped save at least 3.5 metres of its height from melting. This innovative method was tried out for the first time in a Nordic country after it had been successfully used in the Alps.

Global warming affects regions that were previously considered to be always frozen, at least in our popular imagination. However, as we have earlier reported, climate change caused Sweden’s highest point, also part of a glacier, to lose 2 metres of its altitude. These reports indicate that Europe’s glaciers, whether located near the Arctic or closer to the Mediterranean, are equally exposed to the dangers of shrinking.

Helags Glacier is part of Sweden’s highest mountain south of the Arctic Circle

Glaciers are not only formidable sights to behold but are also very useful for geologists, as their conditions indicate changes in the climate. They are so to say the proverbial canaries in the mine that is global warming.

The methodology was first tried out in Italy, where experts have been covering the Presena Glacier with long strips of cloth (totalling some 120,000 square metres) since 2008. The task takes a month to finish, as it involves bringing the large rolls of geotextile material and unfurling them down the slopes of the most vulnerable to sunlight spots.

The material is such that it reflects sunlight, much like silver foil, and maintains the temperature under the cover lower than that of the air. Reportedly, the geotextile tarps are also applied in the Austrian Alps for the same purpose.

Arctic Today reported that the Swedish cloth sheet was biodegradable and the environmental research team which was behind the idea of placing it on Helags Glacier was in talks with the producer to try to make the material thinner and less heavy.

The Swedish initiative is still at an experimental stage as the size of the cloth placed was only 40 square metres. However, the project was meant to bring further environmental awareness since the researchers carried the sheet themselves and placed it without the help of machinery, thus minimizing the carbon impact of the operation.



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