The plan to tow an iceberg to the desert
Friday, May 5, 2017, 2:17 PM - There've been two slightly far-out climate change schemes doing the rounds in international media this week.
One involves icebergs in the desert, while the other, less extreme one simply involves 4,000 snow-making machines and a very large glacier.
We'll start with the iceberg tale, from the United Arab Emirates. The desert nation has always had a water problem, so consultancy firm National Advisor Bureau Limited has a drastic solution: Motor on down to Antarctica, thousands of kilometres away, and simply tow a massive iceberg up to the coast of Fujairah, one of the seven emirates that make up the country.
"Our simulator predicts that it will take up to one year. We have formulated the technical and financial plan. Towing is the best method. We will start the project in beginning of 2018,” Abdullah Mohammad Sulaiman Al Shehi, the general manager of the company, told the Gulf News. “We want it mainly for the water. It could also be good for tourism and the weather.”
That last hope is based on Al Shehi's reckoning that cold air from the island-sized chunks of ice could combine with hot desert air to condense as rain, transforming the climate, though in a limited, artificial way.
By contrast, Switzerland, another small, wealthy country, is the site of a climate plan involving ice, but it wants to slow down or reverse the melting.
Switzerland's Morteratsch Glacier is one of numerous icefields under threat by rising global temperatures, a problem for drinking water sources. The New Scientist estimates the glacier, once 8.5 km long in the 1860s, has shrunk to 6 km today, with the rate of reduction accelerating.
Now, scientists at Utrecht University in the Netherlands have a plan to save it: Cover it in summertime with a layer of artificial snow that will hopefully reflect enough of the sun's rays to preserve what remains of the ice, allowing it to recover in the long run.
"As long as there’s snow on top, the ice beneath is unaffected,” Johannes Oerlemans told a recent meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria, according to the New Scientist.
So how many snow-making machines would be needed? A mere 4,000, according to Oerlemans, whose team is planning a smaller, trial run at a nearby glacier, in the hopes that a success will convince the Swiss government and other authorities to pitch in the millions of euros to do it at a larger scale.