Glaciers Set to Halve in Next 100 Years

Nov 24th, 2013 | By | Category: Carbon, Development and Climate Change, Glaciers, Green House Gas Emissions

3 News New Zealand: Scientists at Victoria University say that glaciers in the central South Island are melting by 160 metres a year and will more than halve in size by 2100.

Their findings have implications for tourism operators who rely on the frozen masses as their income.

“The future looks very different. These glaciers will still be here, but they will essentially be unrecognisable,” says senior research fellow Dr Brian Anderson.

Scientists say that’s because climate change is increasing the rate at which bodies of ice such as the Tasman Glacier are melting.

“We’ve discovered when it rains a lot in this region this thing speeds and it speeds up a lot. It’s sort of 20-30 times faster than normal,” says Huw Morgan of the Antarctic Research Centre.

“It’ll move by up to five metres a day, which is extraordinary, and not something we expected,” says Dr Anderson.

The scientists say they know this because they’ve used GPS to plot the glacier’s position every 15 seconds over the past year, and used four-metre-long poles to measure how long it takes for the ice around them to melt away.

The Tasman Glacier is 25 kilometres long and contains one third of New Zealand’s ice. Large chunks of ice break off into the lake during a process known as calving, which causes the glacier to retreat.

Tourists at the nearby Franz Joseph Glacier used to be able to get there by foot, but the face of the glacier is now so unstable they have to be helicoptered in.

“This is a really critical decade for society as a whole to start reducing our carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere,” says Dr Anderson.

Otherwise, future generations will have to live with the consequences.

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