InnovationGlobal warming: Ice Stupas

Global warming: Ice Stupas

Ice Stupas

Ice Stupas emerged in 2014 as a way to cope with shrinking glaciers in a world facing global warming. In India’s Ladakh region, some communities living high in the mountains build fountains of water during the winter that freeze in to building-sized cones of ice known as ice stupas.

Some farmers in India’s mountainous Ladakh region use pipes and sprinklers to construct building sized cones of ice during the extreme winters. These human made glaciers, called ice stupas, slowly release water as they melt during the dry spring months for drinking or irrigating the crops for the entire community.

Earlier the pipes would often freeze due to extreme cold condition, stifling construction. But the studies suggest a new automated system that can erect an ice stupa while avoiding frozen pipes.

These new automated ice stupas use local weather control data to control when and how much water is spouted. This new system uses roughly a tenth the amount of water that’s used by conventional methods. Further automation could help communities build larger and long lasting ice stupas that would provide more water during dry periods.

Ice Stupas emerged as a means to cope with shrinking alpine glaciers due to human-caused climate change.  These ice stupas may benefit high mountain communities in India, Kyrgyzstan and Chile. These communities’ pipe glacial melt water into gravity-driven fountains that sprinkle continuously in winter.

Cold air freezes the drizzle, creating frozen cones that can store millions of liters of water. As an advanced system an ice stupa’s fountain was outfitted with a computer that would automatically adjust the spout’s flow rate based on local temperatures, humidity and wind speed. There are two types of ice stupas; one using a continuously spraying fountain and the second one using the automated system.

The researchers are trying to simplify their prototype and to make it more affordable for high- mountain communities around the world.

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