Mt Cook glaciers ‘permanently damaged’ by climate change

Mt. Cook & Glaciers - New Zealand

New Zealand’s famed Mount Cook glaciers are so affected by a warming climate they will never return to their former splendour, a New Zealand glaciologist has said.

Glaciologist Dr Trevor Chinn, who has been studying the Mount Cook structures since the 1960s, said some had already shrunk up to five kilometres, about 20 per cent, and it was too late for any of them to completely recover.

He said that while some of the world’s glaciers would grow back if the climate cooled to its pre-global warming levels, those fronting lakes, like some at Mount Cook, would not.

“You can’t get a re-advance that will come back if you apply the previous climate … a re-advance across a lake is difficult because the ice breaks off the front of the glacier and floats away,” Chinn said.

He said local warming since the 1890s had started the trend, but man-made climate change in recent decades had exacerbated the effect.

“They will never completely go. For that to happen the climate has to warm enough for the snowline to rise clean above the mountains, but they will retreat quite a bit more,” he said.

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