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).

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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

Photo Friday: New Zealand’s Tasman Glacier

This week’s Photo Friday features the Tasman Glacier in the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s South Island. At over 23 kilometers, the glacier is the longest of New Zealand’s more than 3,000 glaciers.

The photographer, Ryan Force, took the image from the Tasman Glacier viewpoint. Force and his wife, Marissa, honeymooned on the island by campervan. They intended to park near Mount Cook, the country’s highest peak, and hike to a promontory to view the glacier. But heavy rains in the region days earlier washed out a bridge on the road to the access point. The photo below was as close to the Tasman Glacier as the newlyweds were able to get.

The rock and debris covered Tasman Glacier seen from the southwest shore of Tasman Lake (Source: Ryan Force).

The Tasman Glacier is in rapid retreat. The body of milky grey water in the foreground of Force’s photo is Tasman Lake, which formed as the glacier’s ice melted and continues to grow as the glacier recedes.

In 1973 there was no lake in front of the Tasman Glacier, according to Martin Brook, a lecturer in physical geography at New Zealand’s Massey University. The lake is now 7 kilometers long, 2 kilometers wide, and 245 meters deep.

A significant ice calving event in February of this year created a two-meter surge that damaged a jetty and several boat trailers on Tasman Lake, the BBC reported.

A sign at the Tasman Glacier lookout informs tourists of the glacier’s decline. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation uses the visual display of their rapidly retreating glaciers as an opportunity to raise awareness about climate change.

A sign board installed by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation documents the Tasman Glacier’s ablation (Source: Ryan Force).

“We felt a bit defeated,” Force told GlacierHub of the experience. “I felt a little frustration that in the next 50 years, this beautiful landscape might be gone entirely because we as a species put our heads in the sand and refused to take action.”

A 2015 study on the implications of climate change for glacier tourism in New Zealand found glaciers to be a fundamental motivation for visitors, finding a “last chance dimension” luring visitors to the glaciers.

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation estimated that 945,000 people visited Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in 2018. The surge in visitors to the park, which contains the Tasman Glacier, is a 17.5 percent increase from the previous year.

An aerial photo of a helicopter landing on a glacier in New Zealand’s Southern Alps (Source: Ryan Force).

Although travelers produce a substantial carbon footprint through last-chance tourism, it may help bolster the sense of place attachment and identity that encourages tourists to engage in carbon offsetting, GlacierHub reported last month. People sometimes build personal connections to places they visit, and this value they put on locations may lead them to take meaningful action to preserve them.

“It was so valuable to actually see it firsthand,” said Force. “This was the first time I saw with my own eyes what the results looked like, instead of reading about them in an article or seeing it in a documentary. I walked away wanting to do more.”

Read more on GlacierHub:

Glaciers Get New Protections with Passage of Natural Resources Act

Glaciers Account for More Sea Level Rise Than Previously Thought

The Dead of Mount Everest Are Seeing the Light of Day


Video of the Week: Shedding Light on Glaciers

This week, journey to New Zealand’s largest glacier as Heath Patterson captures photographers Vaughan Brookfield and Tom Lynch and their attempt to literally shine a light on the impact of climate change through visual art.

After remaining at a constant length for all of its recorded history in the 20th century, the Tasman Glacier is now in a period of retreat. Brookfield and Lynch projected images on to the rapidly receding glacier to “remind people of the effects humans are having on the environment.”

This project was made possible by Canon Australia’s “Show Us What’s Possible” creative incubator. The story was also featured in The Guardian.

Read more glacier news at GlacierHub:

The Swiftness of Glaciers: Language in a Time of Climate Change

Melting Glaciers Create Uncertain Future for Xinjiang

The Curious Case of New Zealand’s Shrinking Glaciers

Roundup: Hazard Films, Water Scarcity, and Peace Building

Roundup: Films, Water and Peace

 

Films Raise Awareness in Volcanic Regions

From Science Direct: “The medium of film is well established for education and communication about hazardous phenomena as it provides engaging ways to directly view hazards and their impacts… Using volcanic eruptions as a focus, an evidence-based methodology was devised to create, use, and track the outcomes of digital film tools designed to raise hazard and risk awareness, and develop preparedness efforts. Experiences from two contrasting eruptions were documented, with the secondary purpose of fostering social and cultural memories of eruptions, developed in response to demand from at-risk communities during field-based research. The films were created as a partnership with local volcano monitoring scientists and at-risk populations who, consequently, became the leading focus of the films, thus offering a substantial contrast to other types of hazard communication.”

Read more about it here.

A map of St. Vincent showing the main road, water courses and volcanic hazard zones (source: Hicks et al.).

 

An Overview of Water Issues in Mountain Asia

From Cambridge Core: “Asia, a region grappling with the impacts of climate change, increasing natural disasters, and transboundary water issues, faces major challenges to water security. Water resources there are closely tied to the dramatic Hindu-Kush Himalayan (HKH) mountain range, where over 46,000 glaciers hold some of the largest repositories of fresh water on earth. Often described as the water tower of Asia, the HKH harbors the snow and ice that form the headwaters of the continent’s major rivers. Downstream, this network of river systems sustains more than 1.3 billion people who depend on these freshwater sources for their consumption and agricultural production, and increasingly as a source of hydropower.”

Learn more about the HKH area here.

View from Cholpon-Ata across the lake towards the Tian-Shan Mountains in Asia (source: Thomas Depenbusch/Flickr).

 

The Pathway of Peaceful Living

From Te Kaharoa: “This paper traces the peacebuilding efforts of Anne Te Maihāora Dodds (Waitaha) in her North Otago community over the last twenty-five years. The purpose of this paper is to record these unique localized efforts, as a historical record of grass-roots initiatives aimed at creating a greater awareness of indigenous and environmental issues… The paper discussed several rituals and pilgrimages. It describes the retracing of ancestral footsteps of Te Heke Ōmaramataka (2012), the peace walk at Maungatī (2012) and the Ocean to Alps Celebration (1990). This paper also discusses the genesis behind cultural events such.”

Explore more about the Maori nation here.

Tasman Glacier at Mount Cook NP, New Zealand (source: Paco/Flickr).