40% of New Zealand’s Glaciers Could Disappear within a Decade

Global and Planetary Change, 19 March 2022

More than one-third of New Zealand’s glacier ice volume has disappeared within the past fifty years due to unusually warm summer temperatures, exacerbated by a recent marine heatwave. As global temperatures rise, New Zealand experiences more frequent extreme weather; last year was its warmest on record. Projections now indicate that up to 40% of New Zealand’s remaining ice will disappear in just the next decade, endangering the future viability of several glacier systems. In particular, glaciers in the Southern Alps of New Zealand are undergoing some of the most rapid and accelerated ice loss anywhere in the world. The smaller glaciers in lower altitude areas of the Southern Alps are rapidly disappearing, including on Caroline Peak in the Merrie Ranges, Mt Ella, Mt Browning and Mt Franklin in North Canterbury. Over the past decade, New Zealand’s glaciers have lost ice nearly every year. Glaciers provide a critical source of local freshwater, irrigation, and hydropower for downstream communities. This study reiterates the urgency of reducing global emissions to mitigate the long-term hazards of future glacier ice loss.