In Northern Italy, teams are finishing up what may seem like an unbelievable project: Wrapping a glacier in sun-reflective tarps to reduce its shrinkage over the hot summer months.
At the Presena Glacier, which has lost a third of its volume in the past 25 years, the workers moved in as soon as the ski season ended for the six-week task of rolling the tarps down the slopes, sewing them together to keep out drafts and anchoring them with sandbags. It takes nearly as long to unwrap the glacier in the fall.
A spokesperson for the company that does the work described the materials as "geotextile tarpaulins that reflect sunlight, maintaining a temperature lower than the external one, and thus preserving as much snow as possible. The first year of the project, 2008, saw crews cover 30,000 square meters; this year they will cover 100,000 square meters.
The tarps, each 70 meters by 5 meters, costs about €400 each, and are made by an Austrian specialist company. Similar work is done on a number of other glaciers, but none is as large as the Presena operation.