Dr Lauren Vargo from Victoria University of Wellington says the retreat that we're seeing is due to the majority of New Zealand’s glaciers losing mass most years over the past decade."From what we saw on the snowline survey, most glaciers had reasonably high snowlines, showing that they lost mass this year. But what was more striking to me is how much smaller and more skeletal so many of the glaciers are becoming," says Dr Vargo.Brewster Glacier. [Photo: Dr Lauren Vargo, Victoria University Wellington]
NIWA climate scientist Gregor Macara says there was a noticeable difference on this years' survey.
NIWA’s work estimates that more than a third of the ice volume has been lost from the Southern Alps since the survey began.
"Based on what I saw during the 2022 survey, it looks like our glaciers have struggled compared to last year. The snowline elevations this year were high, meaning much of the winter snows had melted, leaving a lot of glacial ice exposed. It appears to be yet another poor year for our ice, continuing the trend from recent years, and it is disheartening to see the ongoing decline in extent of the glaciers we monitor".
"What we’re seeing is a clear retreat, which is no doubt thanks to climate change. In a decade, we predict that many of our beloved and important glaciers will be gone. This will have far reaching impacts, such as altering our beautiful landscape, affecting the livelihoods of people who rely on these natural wonders for tourism, and flow on effects from decreased meltwater during periods of drought. It also emphasises the urgency of slowing climate change because the impacts are going to become increasingly costly and hard to avoid," says Dr Lorrey.
The scientific results from this year’s survey will be known later this year.