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Glaciers and People

Although glaciers are large slow and eroding, they provide a few useful contributions to people:

Glaciers Provide Drinking Water

People living in the city of La Paz, Bolivia, rely on glacial melting from a nearby ice cap to provide water during the
significant dry spells they experience.

Although parts of Japan receive tremendous amounts of snow, there are no glaciers. Because the Japanese must endure
frequent droughts, scientists are examining ways to create artificial glaciers that could provide more water for people
when the weather is dry.

Glaciers Irrigate Crops

Over a thousand years ago, farmers in Asia knew that dark colors absorb the solar energy. So, they spread
dark-colored materials such as soil and ashes over snow to promoted melting, and this is how they watered their crops
in the springtime. Chinese and Russian researchers have recently tried something similar by sprinkling coal dust onto
glaciers, hoping that the melting will provide water to the drought-stricken countries of India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
However, the experiment proved to be too costly, and they have abandoned the idea.

In Switzerland's Rhone Valley, farmers have irrigated their crops for hundreds of years, by channeling meltwater from
glaciers to their fields.

Glaciers Help Generate Hydroelectric Power

Scientists and engineers in Norway, Canada, New Zealand and the Alps have worked together to tap into glacial
resources, using electricity that has been generated in part by damming glacial meltwater.


Usually, glaciers are found in remote areas but some are located nera cities and towns and can present a danger to the people living there. On land, lakes formed on top of a glacier during the melt season might cause flooding. At the end of a valley glacier, ice falling from it is a hazard to the people below. Icebergs can form when the ice breaks off over the ocean and pose problems for ships. In 1941, 6,000 people in Huaraz, Peru died when a glacial lake burst open and flooded the town. Today, another lake has formed at the base of the glacier but channels have been built to prevent another flood.

Avalanches- Ice avalanches in the Swiss Alps have continued for centuries and have defied all attempts to stop them. "In 1965, Switzerland was constructing a dam for a hydro-electric plant above the town of Mattmark." Suddenly, a huge
ice mass broke off from a nearby glacier and in seconds the avalanche had surged down the slopes and buried most of the construction camp. 88 workers were killed in this natural disaster.

Icebergs- Icebergs which break off from ice shelves and tidewater glaciers are hazardous to shipping worldwide. In April 1912, an iceberg ripped a 90 meter hole in the hull of the Titanic and 1,503 people were killed as a result. The sea lanes between Greenland and Newfoundland in Canada are historically iceberg infested.

Recently, an iceberg over 80 kilometers long and 40 kilometers wide broke away from the Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Since this iceberg might be a threat to southern shipping lanes, it is being closely watched by satellites and airplanes.



What Are Glaciers? | How are they formed? | What are they Made of? | Where can they be found? | Erosion | The Ice Age | Famous Glaciers | Features | Glaciers and People | Interesting Facts | Bibliography