Blink and its gone – spectacular time-lapse of ice retreat at Fox Glacier

This spectacular time-lapse video1 captures the dramatic retreat of the Fox Glacier in Westland over the last year — 300 metres between January 2015 and January this year. As the ice retreats, the hillside becomes unstable and collapses down into the valley. To get a sense of the scale, you can see people watching from a safe point on the bottom right.

The rapid retreat of both Fox and its neighbour Franz Josef has led to the abandonment of guided walks on the glacier tongues. The ice is now only accessible by helicopter on to the upper reaches.

The collapse of the walls of the valley at Fox (as well as rocks and sediment transported by the ice) has caused the valley floor to rise by a metre over the last two years, as measured by Massey University scientists (see also NZ Herald). They’ve also photographed the retreat over the last decade, but the most marked loss seems to be in the last few years.

NZ’s west coast glaciers are amongst the most dynamic in the world, fed by huge snowfalls in their nevées under Mt Cook — as much as 6 metres a year in the snowfield feeding the Franz-Josef, as Mauri Pelto notes here. At the moment, ice melt in the tongues of both glaciers is outpacing the ice input above, and so the glaciers are retreating fast, but a run of years with heavy snowfalls could reverse the process — at least temporarily.

  1. Created by Victoria University of Wellington with the support of Fox Glacier Guides, Department of Conservation, Snowgrass Solutions, University of Canterbury and the Marsden Fund. []

35 thoughts on “Blink and its gone – spectacular time-lapse of ice retreat at Fox Glacier”

          1. AndyS. Nonsense. Did you not read the wikipedia article which was given to you? Glaciers advanced during the little ice age of the 19th century, and retreated with the modern global warming trend. Unless you have some genuine peer reviewed science that says otherwise, please just go away.

            1. So the last glacial period that covered much of NZ, North America and Europe in ice is a fabrication?

              I thought all these U shaped valley, moraine features, etc were evidence of glacial retreat.

              Sure there may have been localised periods of advance such as during the LIA, but the overall trend since the last glacial is of retreat

              [Whinge snipped: GR]

            2. AndyS. The ice age has ended, so glaciers have retreated. Big deal, we all know that. Since about 1900 we have seen quite significant retreat, evidence of a significant warming period. The question is what is the cause of the warming period? Any clues Andy?

            3. AndyS. The IPCC attribute part of climate change early in the 20th century to agw, and most of the warming since about 1970 to agw. [Snipped. GR]

            4. Andy, I’ve just been reading ‘ Plows, Plagues and Petroleum ‘ by Professor William Ruddiman. He originated the ‘ early Anthropocene ‘ hypothesis, which suggests that humans have actually been significantly affecting the world’s climate since agriculture began eight thousand years ago. There have been about fifty Milankovic cycles of glaciation and retreat since the current period of ice ages began, and the typical pattern was of a fairly fast melt, followed by a long, gradual cooling. That’s what was happening with this one, until the temperature decline reversed at about the same time as farming began in the Middle East and China. By Ruddiman’s reckoning, the extra CO2 ( from ploughed soils and cleared forest ) and methane ( from rice paddies and grazed cattle ) effectively countered about 0.8 degrees centigrade of cooling, from reduced summer sunshine in the high arctic. When human populations and farming went down, from the Black Death in Europe or the post-Columbian depopulation of the Americas, carbon dioxide levels also fell, resulting in the Little Ice Age and even the beginnings of an ice sheet in northeastern Canada. Since the Industrial Revolution we have added enough greenhouse gases for another 0.8 C, in about a fortieth of the time, although the full effects have not yet had time to show.

            5. If humans have been “significantly” changing climate for 8000 years ago, it suggests that land use change may be a bigger factor than fossil fuel combustion

            6. If Ruddiman is right, then land use change and its impact on the atmosphere was significant when human populations were small, but that tells us nothing about the current situation — except, perhaps, that the planet is much more sensitive to changes in greenhouse gas levels than we currently assume.

            7. Andy land use is certainly a factor and was dominant in the past. But if you look at the CO2 curve going up, you see the fossil fuel age clearly. Plus the isotope balance of the Carbon clearly demonstrates the origin in fossil fuels.
              And also, Gareth is right. The fact the humans with their then limited CO2 impact in the pre-fossil fuel age managed to influence our climate already, this underlines the significant changes we have set into motion since CO2 emissions exploded over the last century.

            8. Land use change includes deforestation etc, which can change factors like transpiration and albedo.

              So not all factors that change local weather and therefore climate are necessarily related to CO2 or other GHGs

            9. Of cause Andy. The point however is, and you seem to agree: Its us humans and our actions that are currently driving the change we observe. And besides our impact on land use, our direct CO2 and other GHG emissions are now the largest of our human climate drivers.

            10. I seem to agree?

              No I don’t agree with you Thomas. I agree with the trivially true statement that humans affect the climate

              How you go from this to making the assumption that human activity is the primary driver of climatic change is beyond me.

              “As a physicist”, you probably agree that an insect hitting a car windscreen will slow the car down to some degree

              Do we then both agree that this is the major reason for cars slowing down?

              Of course

            11. AndyS “How you go from this to making the assumption that human activity is the primary driver of climatic change is beyond me.”

              Try reading the IPCC reports as to why we are currently the main driver of climate change. Try considering that over the last 35 years solar activity has been essentially neutral.

              Get back to us when you have some meaningful criticism. Put your money where your mouth is, and publish something! Willy Soon had no problem getting money.

            12. Andy, as a Physicist I look at a
              graph like this and then read your comment about comparing our current climate situation and the human impact on the same with flies on the windscreen of a car. And obviously I come to the conclusion once again that you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.
              Readers of this blog have come to this conclusion a thousand times over already…… just funny how little change there is over time.

  1. Willie Soon seems to think recent climate change is driven by the sun. Unfortunately, documents have just been released implicating him in secretly receiving millions from the fossil fuel lobby, and not disclosing this in his published research, as required by the the various journals. This character has testified before Congress.

    1. I am aware of the smear campaign currently being run against Willie Soon and others in the climate establishment such as Roger Pielke Jr

      These smear campaigns come with a presidential endorsement, no less.

      I’m not really sure what it has to do with Fox Glacier though.

      1. There is no smear campaign AndyS. People are simply pointing out Soon has been deceptive, and hasn’t complied with the rules of publication. You can find further discussion on Are you suggesting Soon should not comply with proper standards? Or be transparent about his funding? You demand that other climate scientists are above reproach, for example you made a big issue of the climategate emails.

        Your own comments above on Rudimans work have little relationship to Fox glacier.

        1. No smear campaign? I guess trashing someone’s reputation isn’t a smear campaign in your book

          As for my off topic comments on Ruddiman’s work, I was responding to yours and John O’Neill’s comments on this topic

          1. To have your reputation “trashed”, it is first necessary to have a good reputation. Unfortunately for Willie, he is regarded by his peers as being clueless. His only “standing” is as a piss-poor propagandist.

            1. I would take a reference from DeSmogBlog as a badge of honour

              This site is solely about trashing people’s reputations

              Sad to see Pielke Jnr under the eye of the Obama drones too.

      2. Didn’t Pielke do a research paper trying to prove water divining, AndyS? No need to smear the guy, he smears himself with his own nonsense.

        And what about all the sceptics smearing of Michael Mann. Including hate mail and death threats. You sceptics should apologise to Mann.

        1. Why don’t you collate your personal attacks on me into a single comment rather than over three?

          As it happens, I have a copy of Pielke’s book The Climate Fix which is an interesting fact filled book about climate policy

          Thanks to the inquisition led by Obama’s lynch mob, Pielke has given up his climate research

          1. So Pielke cant take some honest criticism, and runs away. Meanwhile Michael Mann gets death threats, and is hounded and sued over nothing, and hangs in there, doing his job.

            1. What honest criticism? Pielke is merely agreeing with the IPCC on extreme weather. This is now a sackable offense, it appears.
              No wonder he is giving up.
              What is the point of climate and climate policy research anymore?

            2. AndyS.

              Pielke claims global warming is not causing more extreme weather, as in floods for example. The IPCC has stated evidence on floods is mixed, but there is evidence of increased rainfall, and so it depends on how you define more extreme weather. If Pielke just told congress the full story, he would save himself a lot of trouble. I’m sure you have heard of “lies by omission”.


      3. Au contraire, mon cher, Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas trashed their own scientific reputations when they egregiously cherry-picked climate research in their first bizarre paper:

        Rather than showing quantitative data, they primarily categorised research by others into those supporting, and those not supporting, the MWP and the LIA as defined by themselves.

        Soon said “I was stating outright that I’m not able to give too many quantitative details, especially in terms of aggregating all the results”. They used a very loose definition of climate anomaly, including any period of 50 years or more that was wet, dry, warm or cold.

        Though “mindful” that the MWP and LIA are both defined by temperature, “we emphasize that great bias would result if those thermal anomalies were to be dissociated” from climatic conditions such as wetness and dryness, but wetness and dryness were undefined and only “referred to the standard usage in English.”

        Their selection of a 50 year plus period excluded recent warming, which had occurred in two periods of 30 years in the 20th century, with the greatest warming in the late 20th century.

  2. Having been AWOL for some time I am absolutely disappointed that this once well informed blog has been commandeered by one Andy S.
    After just a brief look through a number of recent postings it appears AS has a lot to say of no consequence or relevant s to the subject matter and indeed goes out of his way to be ignorant.
    I would like to congratulate Gareth for the quality of his postings and for the comments of obviously well informed contributors (AS being the exemption).
    I note a number of contributors of several years ago have dropped off the list. Is there any wonder why. ?????????

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