New Zealand’s glaciers are melting
New Zealand’s glaciers are melting Tourists relax at the end of the track at the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand. The Fox and Franz Josef glaciers have been melting at such a rapid rate that it has become too dangerous for tourists to hike onto them from the valley floor, ending a tradition that dates back a century. (AP Photo/Nick Perry)
New Zealand’s glaciers are melting
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New Zealand is renowned for its wondrous scenery, and among the country's top tourist attractions are two glaciers that are both stunning and unusual because they snake down from the mountains to a temperate rain forest, making them easy for people to walk up to and view.
But the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers have been melting at such a rapid rate that it has become too dangerous for tourists to hike onto them from the valley floor, ending a tradition that dates back a century. With continuing warm weather this year there are no signs of a turnaround, and scientists say it is another example of how global warming is impacting the environment.
Tourism in New Zealand is booming and nearly 1 million people last year flocked to get a glimpse of the glaciers and the spectacular valleys they've carved. But the only way to set foot on them now is to get flown onto them by helicopter.
Tour operators offer flights and guided glacier walks, although logistics limit this to 80,000 tourists per year, half the number that once hiked up from the valley floor. Up to another 150,000 each year take scenic flights that land briefly at the top of the glaciers.
Flying in the UNESCO World Heritage area comes with its own risks, highlighted in November when a sightseeing helicopter crashed onto the Fox Glacier, killing all seven aboard.
Sitting near the base of the Franz Josef Glacier, Wayne Costello, a district operations manager for the Department of Conservation, said that when he arrived eight years ago, the rock he was perched on would have been buried under tons of ice. Instead, the glacier now comes to an end a half-mile further up the valley.
"Like a loaf of bread shrinking in its tin, it's gone down a lot as well," Costello said. "So it's wasted away in terms of its thickness, and that's led to quite a rapid melt."
Because of that melt, the valley walls that were once braced by the glaciers have been left exposed and vulnerable to rock falls, making hiking up too dangerous. Tour operators stopped taking guided hikes onto the Franz Josef in 2012 and the nearby Fox in 2014.
A 2014 paper published in the journal Global and Planetary Change concluded the two glaciers have each melted by 1.9 miles in length since the 1800s, making them about 20 percent shorter. The glaciers have recently been melting at a faster pace than ever previously recorded, the authors said.
Heather Purdie, a scientist at the University of Canterbury and lead author of the paper, said climate change is the driving factor.
"We know that glaciers around the world, including the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, are responding to that warmer temperature and they're retreating," she said. Small changes in temperature and snowfall tend to be magnified in the two glaciers and their retreat has been interrupted by advances that can last years, she said.
Costello and tour operators are hoping to see another advance soon. But there's no sign of that: February was the second-hottest month ever recorded in New Zealand.
The hot weather has even created a new type of tourist attraction over the other side of the mountains. Purdie said the glaciers there are also rapidly retreating, resulting in tourists taking boat rides on the lakes to see some of the massive icebergs that have begun to shear away.
A helicopter trip onto the Fox Glacier reveals deep crevasses in the translucent blue ice and stunning ice caves through which guides take crampon-wearing tourists.
At the base of the Franz Josef, Dutch tourist Dieuwke Derkse said she was overwhelmed by the beauty of the glacier and the purity of the environment.
She said she felt a little guilty even visiting New Zealand because of the fossil fuels burned by the plane ride there. But she said the glacier also helped inspire her to live in a more environmentally conscious way.
"It makes me a little bit sad because you see how fast everything is going," she said.

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What impact do the glaciers have on New Zealand’s economy?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • shawnj1-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:16 a.m.

    Global is a dangerous effect that happens when the suns raise is to high and or the pollution causes chemicals to over react. It is not a shocker that the new Zealand ice glaciers are melting only way we can stop this action from happening is to be cleaner reuse, reduce, recycle those three R's these can be very effective to having are glaciers back.

  • bendalieg1-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:21 a.m.

    The melting Glaciers can impact the wildlife and environment in New Zealand and lets not forget New Zealand well know tourist for centuries. As the temperature rise it gets dangerous for anybody to take a nice, beautiful tour in New Zealand.Accidents can happen and people can die from the breaking pieces of glaciers. Not only human, but animals can lose their habitats.

  • tiaraf1-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:25 a.m.

    The impact that glaciers have on New Zealand's economy is that the glaciers carve valley's and bring in thousands of tourist. The glaciers attracted many tourist and because of the fact that the glaciers are now melting New Zeland stopped tourist from hiking the glaciers because it was getting to dangerous.

  • janayj1-pay
    3/28/2016 - 09:09 a.m.

    Glaciers have a large impact on the tourist industry in the country, apart from the Lord of the Rings set tours there. But back to the environment; up to this point, the only reason why big businesses will cooperate to slow the effects of climate change is if the effects result in large scale economic decline.

  • jamies-pay
    3/28/2016 - 09:15 a.m.

    It is very sad to hear that the glaciers in New Zealand are melting. Considering I am a person who wants to travel the world, I fond it depressing that someone like me will no longer have the opportunity to travel to these glaciers.

  • aliviac-pla
    4/06/2016 - 09:18 p.m.

    New Zealand is known for its scenery including the glaciers which are among the country’s top tourist attractions. The Fox and Franz Josef glaciers have melting to a point where it is to dangerous for tourists to be hiking them. Scientist are saying this is just another way that global warming is impacting our environment. The tourist industry in New Zealand had nearly a million people last lear they got to experience the glaciers and the valleys they have carved out but the only want to set foot on them anymore is to take a helicopter. Tours are offered for people but they now have a limit to 80 thousand tourists a year which is only a fraction of the amount that used to hike up from the valley floor. These glaciers are shrinking much faster than they should be and they are leaving exposed rock falls that are too dangerous for hikers to brace. The glaciers have gotten about 20% shorter since the 1800’s which is the fastest melting pace ever recorded. The tour operators are hoping to see an advance in the glaciers soon but there is no sign of hope in sight for them because of the warm weather being recorded.

    This is civically engaging because people should be concerned about that fact that these glaciers are melting from the warmer weather that is most likely being caused by global warming that people definitely aren't helping at all. People should be concerned about this massive decrease in the glaciers being not only is this a major part of the tour industry for New Zealand but is it also a part of their history because people have been climbing those glaciers for a hundred years.

  • garretta-fel
    4/22/2016 - 02:10 p.m.

    The impact that the glaciers are having on New Zealand's economy is that tourists are no longer allowed to go onto the glaciers.

  • ethany-fel
    4/22/2016 - 02:10 p.m.

    The glaciers are one of New Zealands top tourists attractions,so if they melt people wont get to see them and tourists might sop coming.

  • coled-fel
    4/22/2016 - 02:11 p.m.

    Glaciers have an impact on New Zealand's economy because they have a flocking of 1 million tourists each year.

  • lances-fel
    4/22/2016 - 02:11 p.m.

    The impact the glaciers have on new Zealand's economy is dropping because the tourist that once came to hike the mountains are not coming anymore.

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