New Zealand’s glaciers are getting “smaller and more skeletal” due to the effects of climate change and scientists predict many could disappear within a decade.
An annual late summer survey that records the snowline of more than 50 South Island glaciers has revealed continued loss of snow and ice.
Each year, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa), Victoria University of Wellington and the Department of Conservation collect thousands of aerial photographs of glaciers to measure the elevation of the limit of the glaciers. snowfalls and see how much snow from the previous winter remained covering each glacier.
This snow line, also known as the Equilibrium Line Elevation (ELA), allows scientists to gauge the health of the glacier. If the size of the glacier has decreased, the line will be higher, because there is less snow left in winter.
“We expected the snow lines to be high due to the warm weather we had and unfortunately our instincts were confirmed,” said Dr Andrew Lorrey, lead scientist at Niwa.
New Zealand’s glaciers had mass lost most years over the past decade, said Dr. Lauren Vargo of Victoria University.
“But what struck me the most was how so many glaciers are getting smaller and skeletal.”
The country is experiencing more frequent temperature extremes, four to five times more extreme than you would expect in a climate without long-term warming, Niwa reported in January, when 2021 was New Zealand’s hottest year on record.
Last week, Antarctica recorded temperatures more than 40C warmer than seasonal norms.
Gregor Macara, a climate scientist from Niwa, said this year’s survey showed a noticeable difference from previous years.
“Snow line elevations this year were high, meaning much of the winter snow had melted away, leaving much of the glacial ice exposed. It looks like another bad year for our ice, continuing the trend of recent years, and it is disheartening to see the ongoing decline.
The long-term aerial survey began in 1977, providing a visual timeline of how much glaciers have retreated. Since the start of the survey, the global climate has warmed by around 1.1°C and Niwa estimates that more than a third of the ice volume has been lost in the Southern Alps.
“We are witnessing a clear decline, probably due to climate change. Within a decade, we predict that many of our beloved and important glaciers will be gone,” Lorrey said.
The ramifications are significant. ice cream parlors are an important store of fresh water, their seasonal melting in rivers supporting irrigation of farmland and hydroelectric projects, and acting as a buffer against drought. Disappearing ice also contributes to sea level rise.
“This will have far-reaching impacts, such as altering our beautiful landscape, affecting the livelihoods of people who depend on these natural wonders for tourism, and the effects of reduced meltwater during times of drought,” he said. said Lorrey.
“It also underscores the urgency of slowing climate change as the impacts will become increasingly costly and difficult to avoid.”
Many New Zealand glaciers could disappear within a decade, scientists warn | ice cream parlors
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