Select Page


DATE: August 20, 2019

SNIP: Visitors to the Franz Josef glacier are noticing changes – it’s melting away and it’s not the only one. Victoria University of Wellington PHD Student Lauren Vargo said when surveys started in the late 1970s, New Zealand had more than 3000 glaciers.

“From now on, we’ll see more disappear each year,” she said.

“There are a couple that were quite decent sized glaciers when the surveys began, and they are essentially no longer glaciers and wouldn’t fit the definition of a glacier.”

Most New Zealand glaciers have been rapidly declining since 2011.

Both Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier are no longer accessible by foot due to their retreat.

Vargo said how long glaciers would survive climate change depended on their location and size.

A recent and unpublished study has found New Zealand’s glacier areas reduced about 31 per cent from the late 1970s to 2016, Vargo said.

This year it was found earth’s glaciers are melting much faster than scientists thought – five times faster now than they were in the 1960s.

Niwa climate applications principal scientist Andrew Lorrey said if nothing changed globally, temperatures would continue to rise and the glaciers would continue to diminish.

“Looking at these glaciers and how sensitive they are, I don’t see many of them surviving past the next century to be honest.”