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Does Franz Josef Glacier retreat or advance?

As with all the rest of the glaciated world, New Zealand is also losing ice mass at a rapid rate, with 61% lost since 1850 (Hoelzle et al. 2007), and 11% in the last 30 years (T. Chinn, pers. comm.).

Most of this loss is from the large glaciers calving into pro-glacial lakes, such as the Tasman Glacier. This lake formation is the result of glacier thinning in response to climatic warming in the 20th century. As well as these large dynamic changes in glacier volume, there are smaller annual changes in volume due to changes in the amount of snow accumulation and snow and ice melt. An idea of how much mass is lost or gained each year throughout the Southern Alps is given by measurements of the end-of-summer snowlines since 1977. These measurement indicate that there have been positive mass balances at times during this period balance (Chinn et al. 2008) and the very sensitive and responsive Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers have advanced as a result.

The advance of Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere Franz Josef Glacier since 1984 has been extraordinary given the global pattern of receeding glaciers during this period. Recent work (more…)