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Bubble Wrap Might Be the Key to Longer Ski Seasons?

bubble_wrapThe world around us is filled with commonplace items that the average person takes for granted.

Take something like bubble wrap, for instance – there are many reasons to notice, and appreciate the seemingly mundane material.

Bubble wrap protects those precious Christmas presents sent to loved ones who are far away. It protects pool water in the winter or maintains the proper temperature in a jacuzzi.

Indeed, children even find the stuff a most recreational play toy – popping and popping, laughing all the while.

Now, scientist and climatologist John McClatchey, based at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) in Scotland, is providing yet another reason for all of us to love and be grateful for that speckled sheet of inflated air.

As part of a larger study on global warming’s effect on the climate, McClatchey also noticed a reduction of ski and snow days in Scotland.

McClatchey reported his findings to the BBC, "What's clear is there has been a steady decline, though very variable year to year, but the decline over time is about two days a year for the Cairngorms ski area.”

Over a five-day period, McClatchey noticed some extremely astonishing results. In that limited period of time, the mountain’s snow base lost roughly half-a-meter of snow (19.7 inches)

So, he fooled with the idea of using bubble wrap to combat the problem.

“I experimented with a series of covers for the snow using bubble plastic used to over outdoor swimming pools,” McClatchey told the BBC. "I used single coverings, double coverings and ones painted silver to increase the reflectivity of the material," he added.

Different coverings can be used for various types of climate. In sunny locations, a more reflective, sun-proof covering is useful for preventing melting due to the sun’s rays and warmer temperatures.

In a place like Scotland, where wind and rain are responsible for decreasing the snow base, a clear sheet of bubble wrap works just right.

The idea would be to take extremely large, specifically purposed sheets of bubble wrap and cover the most vulnerable, heavily-trafficked areas on a resort’s ski run.

Other areas of the world have experimented with this idea, North America and the Alps, according to the BBC.

There are some barriers to the implementation of this idea, centrally, how to produce, transport and physically cover these worn-down areas at resorts. Similarly, a method must be devised to keep the wrap situated atop the snow without it blowing away during wind and snowstorms.

The idea is very new and there are reasons to believe that criticism is deserved.

Still, it’s people like McClatchey who think outside of the box, and create new, interesting ways to use the commonplace to make the world better that deserve credit.

-Ryan O'Leary

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