New Zealand’s glaciers are turning red due to Australia’s bushfires
Travel photographer and blogger Liz Carlson snapped the pictures of the discolored snow-capped glaciers on November 28 while on a helicopter flight around Mount Aspiring National Park, in New Zealand’s South Island.
“After we flew deep into the park around the Kitchener Glacier, I could really see how red it was, and it was shocking, I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Carlson told CNN.
“Often at the end of summer the glaciers can appear dirty, even gray with all of the snowmelt and bits of black rock on them, but this was the height of spring so it was really bizarre.”
“The ice was coated in a way that gave it a pinkish-red tinge,” she added.
Australia has been experiencing one of its worst bushfire seasons on record. As of Thursday, there were more than 117 bush and grass fires with more than 60 not yet contained, according to the New South Wales Fire Service.
Westerly winds blew the smoke from the Australian fires toward New Zealand.
The heavier particles in the smoke fall out and, in this case, discolored the snow in New Zealand, according to CNN meteorologist Monica Garrett.
Until the material on the glaciers is tested, it is not possible to know for sure what material it is, Garrett said.
Given the conditions of the past few months, it is safe to assume that it is from the Australia fires, she added.
Satellite pictures on Wednesday show smoke from the fires in eastern New South Wales crossing the Tasman Sea and the North Island of New Zealand. New South Wales and Mount Aspiring National Park are more than 1,000 miles apart.
The smoke and dust from the fires also turned the skies red and orange in New Zealand.
Carlson, who lives in Wanaka, said she was saddened by the sight of the red glaciers. “The wildfires in Australia are immense and unprecedented (and) are definitely exacerbated by climate change,” she said.
“On top of that I know that our poor struggling glaciers don’t need this. They’re already melting too fast and… this coating of red dust on them means they won’t be able to reflect light off them and will melt all the faster. It’s deeply upsetting.”
While it’s too early to say exactly how the particles will affect the glaciers photographed by Carlson, scientists have found that forest fires in the Amazon have caused glaciers in the Andes mountains to melt faster, with pollutants such as black carbon and dust lodged in the ice, reducing the glacier’s ability to reflect sunlight.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said on Monday that spring 2019 was the country’s driest on record.
CNN’s Monica Garrett and James Griffiths contributed to this report