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German Researchers Use Wind-Catcher to Slow Glacial Melt

Researchers from Germany have set up a large screen in the Swiss Alps intended to capture cold air over the Rhone glacier and slow its rate of melting.

Snowless ski lift in the Alps

The Alpine glaciers have shrunk by 50 percent since 1850, said Fuchs

Under the direction of geography professor Hans-Joachim Fuchs, 27 German university students have set up the large screen in Switzerland, the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz said on Thursday, Aug. 14.

"We hope our installations will bring about a net cooling of the area," said Fuchs Thursday in a statement. "And if the melt is not stopped, that it is at least slowed."

Measuring 15 meters long by three meters high (49 feet by 10 feet), the wind-catching screen was installed at an altitude of 2,300 meters in Switzerland's Valais region.

It is designed to capture downwind as it sinks into the valley below, containing the cold air to naturally cool the glacier. The students will monitor the success of the experiment on site until Aug. 21.

Due to rising temperatures, the Rhone glacier shrinks by about eight meters a year, said Fuchs. Studies have shown that the Alpine glaciers could melt away completely by the year 2100.

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