Anders Bekeken

100 Places To Remember: Franz Josef Glacier, South Island, New Zealand

Geschreven op 20-2-2010 - Erik van Erne. Geplaatst in Natuur Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

100places to rememberWhere Ice and Rainforest Meet. The Franz Josef Glacier is widely considered to be the gem of the glaciers on the west coast of New Zealand. It descends from about 3,500 to just 240 metres above sea level in the middle of a temperate rainforest, making it the alpine glacier in the world that terminates at the lowest altitude. The ice melts into the Waiho River.

The glacier was named after Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria in 1865, but its more poetic Maori name is Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere, meaning The Tears of Hinehukatere, deriving from a local legend about a girl whose lover dies in an avalanche. Her tears flow down the mountainside, freezing and forming the glacier.

Like some other glaciers, Franz Josef has its own cycle of retreating and advancing, which is independent of climate change. Having retreated several kilometres between the 1940s and 1980s, it started to advance again in 1984. In the long term it is shrinking, however, as are all of the glaciers in the New Zealand Alps.

Globally, the combined mass of mountain glaciers and snow cover has been declining consistently in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Between 1991 and 2004, the speed at which the glaciers of the world have been shrinking has accelerated, contributing 0.8 mm per annum to the rise in sea-level.

The glaciers in the New Zealand Alps have been shrinking since 2000. On average, those in the Southern Alps have shortened by 38% and lost 25% of their area.

According to glaciologists from New Zealands Canterbury and Victoria universities, the Franz Josef Glacier could disappear within the next 100 years. By the end of the century, Hinehukaere may well have cried her last tear.

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