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Preparatory study MortAlive

By using the scientific basis and incorporating the snow cable technology currently under development, the preparatory study MortAlive is the first planning work for what may be the world's first large-scale maintenance of a glacier to preserve a freshwater reservoir. The preparatory study is only possible thanks to the commitment of Graubündner Kantonalbank. This study is financed by the anniversary project #gkb2020.

Natural conditions

Every glacier is influenced by many different natural factors. From a meteorological point of view, a distinction must be made between air, snow and ice temperatures, the long- and short-wave radiation balance, different types of precipitation and highly variable wind systems. But also hydrology (runoff and water balance), topography and geology are important aspects. The natural hazards resulting from the interaction of all the above-mentioned factors are of great importance for a glacier. In the first part of the MortAlive preparatory study, the relevant natural conditions are identified.

Construction planning

The second part of the study discusses important preparatory work for the construction planning. Especially the meltwater retention and the related water logistics are of central interest. Six to seven snow cables are planned for MortAlive which would be installed over the glacier at the level of the Boval hut and would cover the glacier continuously with snow over an area of about 1 km2. For the construction planning this means that the arrangement of the snow cables and the necessary foundations have to be planned.

Equipment - Design

The third part focuses on the specification of the installation itself. Water and air pipes must be dimensioned, compressed air must be generated with them and the snow cables must be designed for the number of nozzles to be determined. At the same time, the interfaces between all subsystems must also be clearly defined.

Operation, costs, maintenance and permitting procedures

There are also special challenges to be overcome with regard to operation, costs and maintenance, because the MortAlive project only makes sense if it is designed for a project duration of at least 30 years. Both financing and operation must therefore be carefully considered. The approval procedure to be defined must take into account the high degree of protection of the unique glacier landscape around the Piz Bernina. This can only succeed if all aspects of sustainability are taken care of.