There’s a greater method to construct a glacier.
Throughout winter in India’s mountainous Ladakh area, some farmers use pipes and sprinklers to assemble building-sized cones of ice. These towering, humanmade glaciers, referred to as ice stupas, slowly launch water as they soften throughout the dry spring months for communities to drink or irrigate crops. However the pipes usually freeze when situations get too chilly, stifling development.
Now, preliminary outcomes present that an automatic system can erect an ice stupa whereas avoiding frozen pipes, utilizing native climate information to regulate when and the way a lot water is spouted. What’s extra, the brand new system makes use of roughly a tenth the quantity of water that the standard technique makes use of, researchers reported June 23 on the Frontiers in Hydrology assembly in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“This is likely one of the technological steps ahead that we have to get this progressive thought to the purpose the place it’s life like as an answer,” says glaciologist Duncan Quincey of the College of Leeds in England who was not concerned within the analysis. Automation might assist communities construct bigger, longer-lasting ice stupas that present extra water throughout dry intervals, he says.
Ice stupas emerged in 2014 as a way for communities to deal with shrinking alpine glaciers on account of human-caused local weather change (SN: 5/29/19). Usually, high-mountain communities in India, Kyrgyzstan and Chile pipe glacial meltwater into gravity-driven fountains that sprinkle constantly within the winter. Chilly air freezes the drizzle, creating frozen cones that may retailer tens of millions of liters of water.
The method is straightforward, although inefficient. Greater than 70 % of the spouted water could stream away as an alternative of freezing, says glaciologist Suryanarayanan Balasubramanian of the College of Fribourg in Switzerland.
So Balasubramanian and his group outfitted an ice stupa’s fountain with a pc that robotically adjusted the spout’s stream charge primarily based on native temperatures, humidity and wind pace. Then the scientists examined the system by constructing two ice stupas in Guttannen, Switzerland — one utilizing a constantly spraying fountain and one utilizing the automated system.
After 4 months, the group discovered that the constantly sprinkling fountain had spouted about 1,100 cubic meters of water and amassed 53 cubic meters of ice, with pipes freezing as soon as. The automated system sprayed solely round 150 cubic meters of water however shaped 61 cubic meters of ice, with none frozen pipes.
The researchers at the moment are making an attempt to simplify their prototype to make it extra inexpensive for high-mountain communities world wide. “We finally wish to scale back the fee in order that it’s inside two months of wage of the farmers in Ladakh,” Balasubramanian says. “Round $200 to $400.”