15 Sep 2008

NZ glaciers show lowest ice mass on record

3:04 pm on 15 September 2008

New Zealand's glaciers are showing the lowest total ice mass on record.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research says most are continuing to shrink at a rapid rate.

NIWA's latest research shows the Southern Alps glaciers have lost 2.2 billion tonnes of permanent ice between April 2007 and March 2008.

That is the fourth-highest annual loss since monitoring started.

In addition, the total ice volume estimate for the Southern Alps glaciers is the lowest on record.

NIWA has been surveying 50 glaciers in the Southern Alps, using a small aircraft, for the past 32 years to record the height of the snow line at the end of summer.

Principal Scientist Dr Jim Salinger says as a result of La Nina conditions over New Zealand, more easterlies, and warmer than normal temperatures, there was less snowfall in the Southern Alps and more snowmelt.

Dr Salinger says these results are in line with what's happening worldwide.