Fox Glacier is one of the most spectacular sights in New Zealand, receiving on average over 1,000 visits every day. Sadly, like many other glaciers, Fox Glacier is retreating rapidly due to climate change. A pair of before-and-after images 10 year apart highlight this perfectly, just like the time-lapse video below does.
The American Geophysical Union also covered this topic:
“As the Fox Glacier retreats, the surrounding hillslopes, which consist of glacial till, lose toe support. In consequence they can slip, although this process is surprisingly poorly investigated. Kerry Leith of TU Munich, pointed out via Twitter this really interesting time lapse video of the glacier retreating, which captures beautifully the creep of the slopes as the snout of the glacier transitions”, their website writes.
Fed by four alpine glaciers, Fox Glacier falls 2,600 m (8,500 ft) on its 13 km journey from the Southern Alps down to the coast, with it having the distinction of being one of the few glaciers to end among lush rainforest only 300 metres (980 ft) above sea level. Although slowly retreating for 100 years, in recent years, the retreat has been greatly accelerated.
It should also be said that humans also play a part in the glacier’s downfall in a more direct way – despite not being allowed to, some visitors go beyond the barriers and climb without guides onto the glacier. Climbing a glacier unsupervised by someone with experience can be extremely dangerous, and the Fox Glacier has claimed several lives.
The retreat of this glacier serves as (yet) another warning sign of the damage we are causing, through global warming.
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!