Glaciers in Swiss Alps draped with blankets to protect them from extreme heat

·2-min read

Glaciers in the Swiss Alps have been covered with blankets to stop them melting in the extreme summer heat.

A heatwave has engulfed much of Europe, with soaring temperatures expected across the continent all week.

To protect the 12,000ft-high Rhone Glacier, nestled in the southern part of the Alps, white UV-resistant blankets have been placed over it by locals who have made the voyage every year since 2009.

Glaciologists, scientists who study glaciers, say the blankets reduce ice melting by between 50 and 70 per cent.

The blankets are used not only to protect the glacier from the heatwave that is currently gripping Europe but also more generally against climate change.

Some fear that Switzerland’s glaciers could disappear by 2100.

They are made of a heavy-duty fleece material which insulates the ice and reflects back sunlight.

Matthis Huss, head of the Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network, told USA Today: “The blankets protect the underlying snow and ice from the sunlight. Another benefit is the thermal insulation they provide.”

Although they don’t entirely stop the melting process, the glacier expert said the “these blankets are very useful in slowing down ice loss locally”.

The impressive glacier, above Gletsch near the Furkapass, attracts tourists from across the world to visit its ico grotto and glacial lake.

With the ice field melting, the glacier is one of 10 around the world being monitored as part of a Planet Watch project which is investigating the impact of the climate crisis.

The glacier on Mount Titlis has also been covered with blankets, as have others in the country, although many cannot be covered because they are too large.

Elsewhere the continent is grappling with extreme heat as wildfires raging in Portugal, Spain and France.

In the UK, the heatwave is forecast to peak on Tuesday.

Temperatures are expected to soar up to 36C, according to the Met Office.

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