Glaciers in New Zealand are showing the worst-ever shrinkage, according to scientists.
Trevor Chinn, who has been working as a glaciologist for 40 years, is a member of the Snow and Ice Research Group in New Zealand and has been monitoring the ice for decades.
He said: “This year is the worst we have ever seen.
“There is so much melt over the summer – more than half the glaciers have lost all the snow from last winter, and some from the winter before that.
“There are rocks sticking out everywhere.”
Dr Chinn said there was 53 sq km of ice when he first started in 1977, and there is currently about one-third less than that.
Glaciers are formed when years of snowfall compresses into a large block of ice. They can move, and flow like slow rivers. They currently cover about 10% of the Earth’s surface.
Brian Anderson, a glaciologist, said: “We are not going to be able to catch these images again this is an archive for the future.
“We are trying to take hundreds of photos to make 3D models so we can measure what the glaciers are doing.”
The team in New Zealand is using infrared cameras to capture what is happening to the ice blocks.
The studies have been carried out every year for 40 years, but the conditions mean it is rare for all 50 glaciers to be observed in one year.
Andrew Lorrey, a climate scientist, said: “These are the water tanks for southern New Zealand. If we go into a climate where precipitation changes that is our storage, our bank.
“We know they are responding acutely to what is going on with air temperature and by association the Tasman Sea surface temperature and marine heatwave that we have had is very bad for the glaciers.”
Dr Chinn said the glaciers were the best measure for climate change, while Dr Lorrey added that “you can’t make a glacier lie”.
Dr Lorrey added: “It is emotional. If I put myself in Trevor’s shoes, he has seen these glaciers during much better years.
“Are we going to say ‘do you remember when there was ice over here?’
“Or will there be a different story with a different ending where we say ‘OK, we knew we had this problem and we did something about it and look they are coming back’.”