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New Zealand's glaciers are melting

New Zealand's glaciers are an important source of meltwater for rivers and lakes – and also a tourist attraction. But scientists fear that they may soon no longer exist due to climate change.

New Zealand's glacier melt is progressing dramatically: A new study has shown that the Pacific state's ice masses are continuing to shrink due to the effects of climate change, while the snow line is rising. This was announced by the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa).

“In recent years we have seen this increase accelerating, so we are seeing a sustained trend of glacier ice loss,” said Niwa program manager Andrew Lorrey. New Zealand's breathtaking landscape is about to change fundamentally.

“Shattered and Destroyed”

Since the 1970s, experts from the institute have been flying over the country's mountain ranges at the end of summer to measure the snow line and check the condition of the glaciers. “We flew to the southernmost glaciers that we haven't visited since 2018,” Lorrey said. Even back then, they were “incredibly small and practically dead.” Now the situation has gotten even worse. One of the glaciers is only two-thirds the size of the last time it was seen. The glaciers appeared “shattered and destroyed.”

Over the past decade, New Zealand has experienced seven of the 10 warmest years on record, it said. 2023 was the second warmest year ever. “Even if there were a few cooler years, they wouldn't be enough to undo the damage that has already been done,” Lorrey explained.

Important Meltwater source

Glaciers are an important part of New Zealand's environment, economy and culture. They are also an important source of meltwater that supplies lakes, rivers and oceans with nutrients.

“New Zealand is one of the few places in the mid-latitudes where people live close to glaciers and they can be easily seen and visited,” said the Niwa program director. In the meantime, tourism companies would have to penetrate further and further into the mountains in order to even reach them. The scientist stressed that he fears that the next generation will no longer experience New Zealand's glaciers.

Jennifer Johnston, ARD Singapore, tagesschau, March 25, 2024 12:19 p.m

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