New Zealand's glaciers ravaged by savage summer

  • 11/05/2018

New Zealand's glaciers have been decimated by the hot summer as they melt away and leave bare rock behind.

The annual Glacier Snowline Survey measured the melt-back and warned of a disturbing trend.

Alpine and Polar Processes Consultancy glaciologist Dr Trevor Chinn says since 1977 we've lost 30 percent of our glaciers.

"This year is the worst we've ever seen, there is so much melt over the summer that more than half the glaciers have lost all the snow they gained last winter plus some from the winter before," says glaciologist Dr Trevor Chinn.

"There's rocks sticking out everywhere. The melt-back is phenomenal. When I started this game, we have 53 kilometres of ice - that's cubic kilometres, 53!"

The project is taking thousands of photos to create 3D models of the glaciers to measure the melt-back.

Victoria University of Wellington glaciologist Dr Brian Anderson says once these glaciers are gone, we're not going to be able to capture these images again.

"It's pretty much an archive for the future," he says.

The loss has been blamed on summer's marine heatwave, which led to increased temperatures across New Zealand. And there's more worrying news for the future.

"These are the water towers for the southern part of New Zealand," says NIWA climate scientist Dr Andrew Lorrey.

"If we go into a climate in the future where our precipitation changes, that's our storage, that's our bank."