Glaciers around the world are melting and disappearing from World Maps. We are not immune to it as this sad reality is hitting New Zealand as well, and it’s not a nice sight.
The Southern Alps are becoming more and more unstable for alpine activities with increased rock avalanches as the warmer temperatures are melting rock binding ice in lower altitudes then in past.
All this rock avalanche debris falls on the shrinking and narrowing glaciers in valleys below, covering their gasping for breath remnants under layers of rocks.
In case of Tasman Glacier, this is even more evident, as with it’s lengths of 27km now, it is New Zealand’s longest and mightiest glacier…but how long for when its retreat is today estimated to be close to 1 km each year.
In 2010 massive calving event occurred, littering Tasman Glacier terminal lake, non-existent 40 years ago, with tons of ice debris and icebergs.
It’s not every day when event like this happens so I went to check it out myself. When I arrived at the terminal lake near sunset time, the sky suddenly closed up, clouds rolled over my head and it started to snow. The light of the setting sun was penetrating this gentle snowfall, and all Tasman Valley got dressed up in this beautiful pinkish pastel colours…very eerie, moody scene with all the icebergs in the lake…how lucky I was to witness this alone…
Taken with Nikon D300 and Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens
If the current average temperature were just 4° C lower, we would be living in an ice age. During the last, 18, 000 years ago, Franz Josef Glacier stretched its tongue some 10km beyond the present coast line. In this period the sea level was around 100m lower than today, as an immense amount of water was locked up in the glaciers all around the world. On the West Coast there were (more…)
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…)