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Friday, March 5, 2021
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Italy covers glacier with tarpaulin sheets to slow melting by global warming

Italy's Presena glacier is being covered by white geotextile tarpaulins that reflect sunlight, maintaining a temperature lower than the external one, to protect them from melting due to global warming. The sheets, which measure 70m x 5m, are sewn together and bags of sand are placed on them.

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A team of conservationists has begun the process of laying vast tarpaulin sheets to cover over 100,000 sq meters of the Presena glacier in Northern Italy to prevent it from melting due to global warming. The six-week process is repeated every year once the ski season is over and summer begins in full force, AFP reported.

The conservation project was first undertaken by Italian firm Carosello-Tonale in 2008 — at which time only 30,000 sq metres of the glacier was covered. “This area is continuously shrinking, so we cover as much of it as possible,” Carosello Tonale head Davide Panizza told AFP. Since 1993, the Presena glacier has lost more than one third of its volume.

Between Lombardy and Trentino Alto Adige regions, at an altitude of around 2,700-3,000 metres, the team has begun to unroll the long protective fabric strips, which are essentially “geotextile tarpaulins that reflect sunlight, maintaining a temperature lower than the external one, and thus preserving as much snow as possible,” Panizza told AFP.

“There are glacier cover systems similar to ours on a few Austrian glaciers, but the surface covered by the tarpaulins is much smaller,” Panizza said. The €400 (around Rs 34,091) tarpaulin strips used to cover the Presena glacier measure 70m by 5m and are sewn together once they are stretched over the snow to keep warm drafts out. Bags of sand are used to weigh them down. 

The process of removing the protective tarps will begin in September, and will take another six months, Panizza said. “When we remove them in September and we see that they did their job, we feel proud,” he told AFP.

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