used to be able to walk up to and onto Fox glacier, you can't now,
time in history is gone forever.
Zealand’s Fox Glacier's spectacular retreat
In a series of ice collapses, Fox Glacier retreated by around 300 m between January 2014 and January 2015. As the glacier has thinned over the last few years it has destabilised the side of the valley and you can watch the hillside collapse day by day. Before the first collapse you can see guided groups walking on tracks on the ice, and the whole time people watch from a safe view point (bottom right). This timelapse video is made from (mostly) daily images of the glacier.
These images were taken by Victoria University of Wellington with the support of Fox Glacier Guides, Department of Conservation, Snowgrass Solutions, University of Canterbury and the Marsden Fund.
series of photographs taken over 10 years has revealed the dramatic
changes to one of New Zealand's most famous glaciers.
Massey University scientists who took the pictures - at the same
time each year during surveys - say the changes to Fox Glacier on
the South Island's West Coast are also having a major impact on the
surrounding landscape, with the valley rising by more than a metre
in the last two years.
Sam McColl and Associate Professor Ian Fuller visited the glacier
last week to continue their annual survey of the valley floor, a
project which aims to understand how glacier retreat affects
landforms and sediments in the Fox Valley.
McColl said changes in glacier behaviour, such as calving and
glacial retreat, had impacts that extended beyond tourism to
affecting the sediment in the glacial valley.
this kind of change, we could see the whole valley looking
drastically different in a hundred years' time."
West Coast glaciers were extraordinarily sensitive to changes in
precipitation, temperature, and human interference, and responded
rapidly to changes to those climatic parameters.
to the glacier ultimately mean changes to the surrounding sediment
and landscape," Dr McColl said.
phases of retreat, like the one the glaciers are experiencing now,
remove the buttress effect provided by the glacier - essentially a
door-stop that makes the surrounding hill slopes more stable."
it, he said, the hill slopes became more unstable and likely to
fail, which led to more sediment being delivered down-valley.
Fox Glacier, this extra sediment was what had resulted in the valley
floor rapidly increasing in elevation.
this year, the Department of Conservation announced that the Franz
Josef and Fox glaciers may be accessed only by air.
gradual loss of "permanent" ice in the South Island's alps
and glaciers has led to growing concern over recent years (story
continues after the photos).
supplied by Associate Professor Ian Fuller
analysis of aerial surveys, published on Australian website The
Conversation last year, showed a third of the permanent snow and ice
on the Southern Alps had vanished in less than four decades.
using aerial surveys by the National Institute of Water and
Atmospheric Research, study authors Dr Jim Salinger, Professor
Emeritus Blair Fitzharris and Dr Trevor Chinn calculated the alps'
ice volume had shrunk by 18.4cu km or 34 per cent - and those ice
losses have been accelerating rapidly in the past 15 years.
compared with rapid glacier retreats in many parts of the world, the
loss raised serious questions about future sea level rise and
coastal climate impacts, they said.
results were used to calculate the annual glacier mass balance, and
to quantify the volume changes of small to medium glaciers in the laps.
generally responded quickly to annual variability of weather and
climate, although the response was more subdued for the 12 largest
glaciers, among them the Tasman and Godley, which had a thick layer
of insulating rocks on top of the ice lower down the trunk.
World Glacier Monitoring Service estimated extent of ice volume in
the Southern Alps in the 1890s was 170cu km, compared with over
36.1cu km now - a change the authors said was evidence of the local
effects of global warming.
on regional warming projections of 1.5C to 2.5C, it has been
projected by glaciologists Valentina Radic and Regine Hock that just
7 to 12cu km of ice would remain on the alps by the end of this
study, published last year in the US journal Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences, suggested that
ancient New Zealand glaciers were out of tune with their Northern
Hemisphere counterparts when they grew and subsided thousands of
years ago. This went against an alternative view that our glaciers
followed the same patterns as those in the opposite hemisphere
between 30,000 and 20,000 years ago, when ice sheets were at their
most recent maximum extension.
study, led by the University of Greifswald in Germany, analysed a
record of glacier debris in the Southern Alps' Rangitata Valley from
between 28,000 and 16,000 years ago.
to the study, the records of glacier movement, preserved in
"exceptional detail", showed New Zealand glaciers peaked
earlier and retreated more slowly than Northern Hemisphere glaciers,
and were only partially influenced by northern climate patterns.
the time it was published, Victoria University researcher Associate
Professor Andrew Mackintosh said though the new findings were
compelling, whether our glaciers followed their northern
counterparts remained an open question.