Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Southern Alps glaciers in state of rapid change

25 November 2013   

Southern Alps glaciers in state of rapid change

Research carried out by Victoria University’s Antarctic Research Centre shows the glaciers of the central Southern Alps are in a state of rapid change with ice volumes set to reduce by up to 60 percent by the end of this century (2100).

Historic records show Franz Josef Glacier retreated three kilometres in the last century and mathematical modeling indicates it is likely to retreat even more this century.

Other glaciers in the region, including Fox Glacier, are declining at similar rates as a result of climatic change says Dr Brian Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Antarctic Research Centre, who is supported by a Marsden Fast Start research grant.

Dr Anderson says mathematical modelling helps him, and other researchers in the team, understand how glaciers have evolved since the last ice age. It also helps them analyse what is occurring now and predict how many glaciers in the Southern Alps will fare in the future.

“It’s important to see the long term picture to really understand what’s going on. That’s because many of our glaciers—Fox and Franz Josef particularly—change so quickly and, apparently, so erratically.

“In the 12 years we’ve been carrying out this study, we’ve seen them rapidly retreat and then rapidly advance. It’s not until we look back over the past century that we see an overall pattern of retreat emerging,” says Dr Anderson.

“Looking ahead, we are likely to see warmer and wetter weather, which means Franz Josef and Fox glaciers will retreat a lot—our best estimate is that they will be seven or eight kilometres shorter than present by 2100.”

The research findings are being collated and published as part of the Antarctic Research Centre’s glacier monitoring project which also involves Dr Ruzica Dadic, Dr Huw Horgan and Associate Professor Andrew Mackintosh.

Together, the researchers are observing and measuring three glaciers—the well-known Franz Josef and Tasman glaciers and the lesser-known Brewster Glacier.

Other collaborators on the Brewster Glacier project are Dr Nicolas Cullen at the University of Otago and Dr Andrew Lorrey at NIWA.

The data gathered is contributing to the University of Zurich’s World Glacier Monitoring Service.

Dr Anderson says: “Already we are seeing issues at Franz Josef Glacier, where walking access has not been possible for more than a year, and tourists are now being flown onto the ice. These are the kinds of things being predicted to happen around the world as glaciers decline and temperatures continue to warm,” he says.
Dr Anderson has travelled to the glaciers of the Southern Alps on a monthly basis for more than a decade. His fieldwork typically involves drilling four-metre long poles into glacier ice and timing how long it takes for the ice around each pole to melt away. Global positioning technology is used to track glacier movement.

Each year, Dr Anderson and his team trek on the upper reaches of Franz Josef Glacier to look down crevasses and gauge how much snow is left after the summer melt. At Brewster Glacier, a small alpine glacier near Haast in South Westland, they use long sticks, called probes, and ground-penetrating radar to measure the depth of the snow.

Earlier this year, Dr Anderson says a 70-metre chunk of ice broke off the terminal face of Tasman glacier, releasing an estimated seven million cubic metres of ice into Tasman Lake.

“Tasman is undergoing rapid decline right now, with large chunks breaking off and falling into Tasman Lake. We are using time-lapse photography to capture these ‘calving’ events as they happen and gather valuable information on ice loss and glacier behaviour at the same time.”

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Media: Julian Wilcox Leaves Māori TV

Māori Television has confirmed the resignation of Head of News and Production Julian Wilcox. Mr Maxwell acknowledged Mr Wilcox’s significant contribution to Māori Television since joining the organisation in 2004. More>>

ALSO:

Genetics: New Heat Tolerant Cow Developed

Hamilton, New Zealand-based Dairy Solutionz Ltd has led an expert genetics team to develop a new dairy cow breed conditioned to thrive in lower elevation tropical climates and achieve high milk production under heat stress. More>>

Fractals: Thousands More Business Cards Needed To Build Giant Sponge

New Zealand is taking part in a global event this weekend to build a Menger Sponge using 15 million business cards but local organisers say they are thousands of business cards short. More>>

Scoop Business: NZ Net Migration Rises To Annual Record In September

New Zealand’s annual net migration rose to a record in September, beating government forecasts, as the inflow was spurred by student arrivals from India and Kiwis returning home from Australia. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Fletcher To Close Its Christchurch Insulation Plant, Cut 29 Jobs

Fletcher Building, New Zealand’s largest listed company, will close its Christchurch insulation factory, as it consolidates its Tasman Insulations operations in a “highly competitive market”. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Novartis Adds Nine New Treatments Under Pharmac Deal

Novartis New Zealand, the local unit of the global pharmaceuticals firm, has added nine new treatments in a far-ranging agreement with government drug buying agency, Pharmac. More>>

ALSO:

Crown Accounts: English Wary On Tax Take, Could Threaten Surplus

Finance Minister Bill English is warning the tax take may come in below forecast in the current financial year, as figures released today confirm it was short by nearly $1 billion in the year to June 30 and English warned of the potential impact of slumping receipts from agricultural exports. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand

Mosh Social Media
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news