An army of snow machines could help save a famous Swiss glacier

blowing artificial snow switzerland glacier 27038682 l
Roberto Zocchi/123RF
Big problems call for big solutions. That’s a description that certainly covers an innovative initiative dreamed up by Swiss scientists to help respond to the challenge of climate change.

Specifically, the ambition is to come up with a way to help save the Morteratsch Glacier in Switzerland, which is currently losing between 100 and 130 feet in length each year. The Morteratsch glacier is a popular tourist destination, and is reportedly the only glacier that can be reached by wheelchair: demonstrating just how accessible it is.

“This is one of the most frequently visited glaciers in Switzerland, but it’s receding at an incredibly fast rate,” Professor Johannes Oerlemans of Utrecht University in the Netherlands told Digital Trends. “This is where our preparatory study comes in, with the goal of seeing if there’s a way to stop the glacier’s retreat.”

Working with Dr. Felix Keller of Switzerland’s Academia Engiadina, Oerlemans suggests that one way to slow the melting of the glacier would be with the aid of masses of snow machines.

“We looked at various ways of trying to keep the glacier frozen, but the only possibility we see that may be feasible is to try and keep it covered with snow during the summer,” he continued. “Because you can make snow much faster than it melts, we think we can keep it covered with a white surface throughout the summer — with the snow simply protecting the ice to keep it from melting.”

The advantage of the artificial snow is that it would reflect sunlight, while hopefully allowing the glacier the chance to grow back. The project was recently presented at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria, in late April.

It’s certainly an original idea, and to examine whether it works a pilot project funded by locals is currently underway. This pilot project involves testing the technology on a small artificial glacier at the foot of the Diavolezzafirn glacier. If this works, Oerlemans and Keller’s idea can then be put forward to officials more seriously.

This won’t necessarily be easy, though. As Oerlemans told us, the cost of such a project would be immense. “It will be huge, in the region of tens of millions of Swiss francs,” he said. “If you want to cover a glacier area of half a kilometer you would need about four to five thousand snow machines.”

Health & Fitness

In search of the fountain of youth, beauty companies turn to tech

Beauty tech is a fairly new concept, but at CES 2019, companies such as Olay, L’Oreal, and Neutrogena were fully embracing it with all kinds of gadgets that promise to give you glowing skin.
Wearables

See the four cool Swatch watches you can use for mobile payments

Swatch has announced its Swatchpay technology is now available in Switzerland, enabling mobile payments from your Swatch watch. It works in a similar way to Apple Pay and Google Pay. Here's everything about it.
Movies & TV

From premiere date to footage: Here's all we have on 'Game of Thrones' season 8

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Movies & TV

Colder and bloodier, Game of Thrones season 8 has a premiere date

A new teaser trailer for season 8 of HBO's hit series Game of Thrones reveals the official premiere date for the final story arc in the award-winning series based on George RR Martin's popular novels.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.
Emerging Tech

Forget fireworks. Japan will soon have artificial meteor showers on tap

Tokyo-based startup Astro Live Experiences is preparing to launch its first artificial meteor shower over Japan, serving as a showcase of its prowess in the space entertainment sector.