Bushfires raging in Australia have taken their toll on New Zealand’s glaciers. Smoke and dust from the fires drifted across the Tasman Sea and settled on glaciers in New Zealand more than 1,300 miles away. Ash covering glaciers in New Zealand is visible in photos published to Twitter. In the images, the snow and ice appears as a pinkish color.
Australia has experienced a severe bushfire season, with multiple lives lost, homes destroyed, and over one million hectares of land burned. The smoke and dust-laden glaciers of New Zealand are representative of the second-order effects of the bushfires in Australia.
The distance the smoke and ash have traveled and the extent to which they have blanketed glaciers in New Zealand speaks to the severity of the Australian bushfires. This coating of smoke and ash poses a significant threat to New Zealand’s glaciers. It settles as black carbon, which darken glaciers’ snow and ice, absorbing heat and contributing to increased rates of melting and extending the melt season.
Glaciers are not only an integral component of mountain ecosystems in New Zealand, but they are major draw for tourists visiting the island. Glacier retreat in New Zealand is reshaping the country’s tourism industry. In October, GlacierHub covered the growing concern over melting glaciers in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand.
The pink hue of New Zealand’s glaciers is not only a grim reminder of the devastating fires burning in Australia, but also makes visceral the threat of melting glaciers. Unfortunately, as Australian bushfires continue to blaze, New Zealand and its glaciers may continue to experience residual effects.