Methods for reducing the risks of melting glaciers | 3/21/2019 | Staff
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Under a pilot project being spearheaded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), a team of experts—including civil and environmental engineers from EPFL—are studying methods to help protect a region of the Andes Mountains threatened by glacial retreat. The testing phase of the pilot project will conclude at the end of the month. If successful, their methods could be used in other parts of the world as well.

As glaciers melt, they form glacial lakes which—despite their peaceful appearance—harbor numerous risks. They can empty suddenly and cause flooding, as the Swiss town of Zermatt recently discovered. One solution being studied is the controlled use of water from glacial lakes; that would enable engineers to drain them quickly in the event of an emergency, such as if a large chunk of glacier fell into a lake.

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"The main idea here is to explore several ideas at once, because the most effective way to improve the safety of people living in areas affected by glacial retreat is to deploy not just one but a combination of systems," says Anton Schleiss, an honorary professor of civil engineering at EPFL and former head of EPFL's Platform of Hydraulic Constructions (LCH).

The LCH has teamed up with other Swiss institutions like the University of Zurich and the Center for Research on the Alpine Environment (CREALP) on an eight-year research project on glacial retreat in Peru. Called GLACIARES+, the project is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

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"We're working with the University of Zurich and CREALP to set up systems that will use two glacial lakes as...
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