Video of the Week: “Return to Natural––Documenting the Tasman Glacier”

This week’s Video of the Week is a short film featuring award-winning photographer and natural progressive, Chris Burkard, on a quest to take a single photograph that represents humans’ relationship with nature. The film, Return to Natural, was produced by New Zealand outdoor apparel brand, Icebreaker, who invited Burkard to the Tasman Glacier to seek and capture the photo. In that search for the right image, the film was created.

The 12-minute movie follows Burkard and his team over the course of five days as they hike, ski, boat, and fly above the Tasman, becoming increasingly intimate with the glacier. On the final day Burkard found the image he was looking for––one that would challenge peoples’ perspective of nature. “It hit me when I was taking the photo of the lake,” Burkard said.

“It was the literal open wound of a melting glacier,” Burkard said of the glacial lake, which is younger than the 34-year old photographer himself. “The lake was in fact new, only 30 years old. Created from the run-off from the ever melting glacier.”

About a year after Return to Natural was filmed, the Tasman Glacier was the site of a heartbreaking video that went viral in January when ash and soot from the Australia bushfires turned the sky orange and darkened the ice. The fallout will accelerate the melt of Tasman, which the docu-film reported is already receding 477-822 meters each year. The dire forecast for Tasman is underscored by a recent study that showed fires in the Amazon in 2010 caused a 4.5 percent increase in water runoff from Zongo Glacier in Bolivia alone.

Earlier this year GlacierHub reported on Burkard’s new book At Glacier’s End in which he and author Matt McDonald documented Iceland’s glacial rivers by air to advocate for their protection as part of a new national park covering most of the country’s interior. In the book, as with the short film, Burkard’s ‘it’s not the photo––it’s what you have to say about it’ mantra is unmistakably consistent.

“We have the potential to reduce our impact, but it starts with changing our perspective and moving to natural alternatives,” Burkard said. “We need people to re-examine their perceptions and individual choices…particularly the things that might not be so obvious.”

Read More on GlacierHub:

At Glacier’s End: Protecting Glacial Rivers in Iceland

Video of the Week: Smoke and Ash Choke Tasman Glacier in New Zealand

Photo Friday: New Zealand’s Tasman Glacier

Video of the Week: Smoke and Ash Choke Tasman Glacier in New Zealand

Australia is experiencing the worst fire season in modern times. Millions of hectares of forest and thousands of homes have burned and more than 20 people have perished. The environmental impacts are yet to be tabulated, but experts say one billion animals may have died on the continent, which already has the highest extinction rate in the world.

While no glaciers remain on Australia, the impacts of the fires on glaciers more than 1,000 miles away are already being felt. This week’s Video of the Week, showing the impact of Australia’s bushfires on New Zealand’s Tasman Glacier, is one of the most viral glacier videos ever. The footage was viewed 653,000 times on Twitter alone at the time of publication––just one week after it was shared.

Video Credit: Andy Hoare

Andy Hoare, who has been a guide on the Tasman Glacier for the past three years and who shot the footage on New Year’s Day 2020, said the group have never seen anything like it. “I didn’t expect the smoke to get as bad as it did,” Hoare told GlacierHub. “It felt quite depressing standing there, especially because you can already the massive retreat that our glaciers have already experienced. I think it felt quite symbolic of what’s happening to our environment around the world.”

The 21-second clip shows tourists milling about on the ice. Hoare’s mother, Twitter user @MissRoho, shared the video with the caption “This the view from the top of the Tasman Glacier NZ today––whole South island experiencing bushfire clouds. We can actually smell the burning here in Christchurch. Thinking of you guys.”

The long term impacts of the sooty fallout darkening the surface of New Zealand’s glaciers remains to be seen. But if the Amazon forest fires are any analog, New Zealand’s glaciers can be expected to melt significantly faster. Fires in the Amazon in 2010 caused a 4.5 percent increase in water runoff from Zongo Glacier in Bolivia alone.

Melt rate is critical because where there are glaciers there are people––and biodiversity––reliant upon the slow release of water from glacial reservoirs. Nearly two billion people depend on runoff from Himalayan glaciers in southeast Asia and some towns in Peru receive as much as 85 percent of their drinking water from glaciers during times of drought. Too much melt too fast without replenishment is bad for people, biodiversity, and glaciers.

Hoare did not expect the video to take off the way it did. “I’m glad the footage could at least in a small way make people aware of how the fires affected our glaciers and also maybe think about the connection between the fires, emissions, coal mining, and how it effects the planet.”

Read More on GlacierHub:

Photo Friday: Bushfires in Australia Continue to Devastate New Zealand Glaciers

Amazon Fires Quickening Glacier Melting in Andes

Last Remaining Glaciers in the Pacific Will Soon Melt Away

Roundup: The Glacier Compensation Effect, Amazon Fires Melt Andean Glaciers, and Australia’s Bushfires Accelerate Melt in New Zealand

Characterizing the Relation Between Interannual Streamflow Variability and Glacier Cover

A new study confirmed the theory that streamflow variability is dependent on relative glacier cover. From the abstract: “Meltwater from glaciers is not only a stable source of water but also affects downstream streamflow dynamics. One of these dynamics is the interannual variability of streamflow. Glaciers can moderate streamflow variability because the runoff in the glacierized part, driven by temperature, correlates negatively with the runoff in the non‐glacierized part of a catchment, driven by precipitation, thereby counterbalancing each other. This is also called the glacier compensation effect (GCE), and the effect is assumed to depend on relative glacier cover. Previous studies found a convex relationship between streamflow variability and glacier cover of different glacierized catchments, with lowest streamflow variability at a certain optimum glacier cover. In this study, we aim to revisit these previously found curves to find out if a universal relationship between interannual streamflow variability and glacier cover exists, which could potentially be used in a space‐for‐time substitution analysis.”

Read the study here.

Amazon Fires Quickening Glacier Melting in Andes

In a new paper published November 28, 2019, in the journal Scientific Reports, a team of researchers has outlined how smoke from fires in the Amazon in 2010 made glaciers in the Andes melt more quickly.

Read the story here.

The Zongo glacier is found on the slopes of Huayna Potosi, one of Bolivia’s highest mountains (Source: Ryan Michael Wilson/Shutterstock)

Soot From Australia Bushfires Settles on New Zealand Glaciers

On December 13, GlacierHub published “Bushfires in Australia Blanket New Zealand Glaciers in Soot.” Since then, the fires in Australia have continued to grow and their fallout is increasingly darkening the surface of glaciers in New Zealand. Media outlets including The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and The Guardian, among others, are reporting on the tragedy indirectly befalling New Zealand’s glaciers.

Read the story here.

On January 1, 2020, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired a natural-color image (above) of thick smoke blanketing southeastern Australia along the border of Victoria and New South Wales (Source: NASA).

Read More on GlacierHub:

Kerguelen Island Glacier Retreat Expands Lake District

Photo Friday: Glaciers Smile Down on Electric Ferries

Crowded Backcountry Ski Slopes Increase Risk of Skiers Endangering Each Other

Photo Friday: Bushfires in Australia Continue to Devastate New Zealand Glaciers

On December 13, GlacierHub published “Bushfires in Australia Blanket New Zealand Glaciers in Soot.” Since then, the fires in Australia have continued to grow and their fallout is increasingly darkening the surface of glaciers in New Zealand. Media outlets including The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and The Guardian, among others, are reporting on the tragedy indirectly befalling New Zealand’s glaciers. The following story was originally written by GlacierHub writer, Zoë Klobus, with updated figures and images:

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. At least 18 people have died, over 1,000 homes destroyed, millions of livestock lost, and over 15 million acres of land has 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.

Read more on GlacierHub:

Amazon Fires Quickening Glacier Melting in Andes

Wildfires Melt Glaciers From a Distance

Photo Friday: Mount Baker Amid Haze from Fires