Is Artificial Snow the Answer to Saving Antarctica From Climate Change?

A new scientific paper makes a radical proposal on how we can save Antarctica from climate change. According to the new report, published a few days back in Science Advances, artificial snow could help stem the tide of damage being caused by warmer temperatures in the Antarctic.

But before we get to excited by the idea, the same document says that more than 74 trillion tons of the fake snow would have to be applied to the region over a ten year span to even begin to turn things around.

The white paper is the result of a simulation run by scientists who posed the question of what would happen if we started adding artificial snow to the glaciers in West Antarctica. That area of the frozen continent has seen its ice retreat the fastest with a massive melt off occurring in recent years.

The glaciers found in that region also hold a significant amount of water, which some researchers have said could cause global ocean levels to rise by as much as 10 feet (3 meters) should they continue to disintegrate. That would cause devastation across the globe, which is why radical ideas such as creating massive amounts of artificial snow are even part of the discussion.

The simulation run by the scientists behind this new report indicated that the idea of using manmade snow and ice to stem the tide of destruction could actually work. The sheer amount of snow required however is incredibly high, making such an effort pretty much impossible.

To put things in perspective, we would have to add 32 feet (10 meters) of snow, each and every year, for a decade in order to stop the glacier melt off from occurring. In order to do that, we’re going to need an awful lot of snow guns.

Need a further sense of scale? Earther spoke to Jane Flagel, who is a science policy expert and a faculty member at Arizona State’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society. She told the site that the required amount of snow and ice is six orders of magnitude larger than the Panama Canal.

She goes on to add, “For context, I think Big Bear’s artificial snow system can make roughly 20 tons of snow per minute. So to do this, some system would have to run Big Bear’s artificial snowmaking, which is pretty serious, for 700,000 years.”

In other words, while we can give the scientists behind this proposal high marks for creativity, it simply isn’t a real-world solution to the problems we now face from our warming planet.

Kraig Becker