Speaker: Prof J. Oerlemans, IMAU Utrecht University
World-wide glacier retreat is perhaps the most outstanding signature of global warming, and its effect on ocean volume is a key area of climate research. Glacier fluctuations also affect security of infrastructure and buildings (ice avalanches, outbursts of glacial lakes), meltwater supply (reservoirs, irrigation), and even tourist industry (ski areas, attractiveness of alpine scenery).
In this lecture the focus is on mountain glaciers: how they work, what the data records tell us, and what can be expected for the future. Even when the Paris agreement would become reality, significant glacier shrinkage will occur in the coming decades (or even centuries). The importance of glaciers for some local economies may be so large that technical measures become an option (‘glacier engineering’). In the second part of the lecture I will describe the development of a project that attempts to slow down the dramatic retreat of the Morteratsch glacier in Switzerland, by covering a part of the melting zone by artificially produced snow. This project involves computer simulation of the glacier flow and the snow-making process, but also a direct cooperation with Swiss industrial partners.
I will conclude with a brief introduction of the GlaciersAlive Association, which fosters small scale projects dealing with the consequences of glacier retreat (for instance water supply for mountain huts, irrigation).