West Coast valley rises as glaciers retreat

January 22, 2015, Massey University
Changes to the geography of the Fox Glacier are clearly visible. Credit: Dr Ian Fuller

Massey University scientists say the dramatic changes to the Fox Glacier are also having dramatic effects on the landscape, with the valley rising by more than a metre in the last two years.

Dr Sam McColl and Associate Professor Ian Fuller, from the Institute of Agriculture and Environment, visited the glacier last week to continue their annual survey of the valley floor. The survey aims to understand how glacier retreat affects landforms and sediments in the Fox Valley on the South Island's West Coast.

Dr McColl says changes in glacier behaviour, such as calving and , have impacts that extend beyond tourism to affecting the in the glacial valley. "With this kind of change, we could see the whole valley looking drastically different in a hundred years' time," he says.

He says West Coast glaciers are extraordinarily sensitive to changes in precipitation, temperature, and human interference and respond very rapidly to changes to those climatic parameters. "Changes to the glacier ultimately mean changes to the surrounding sediment and landscape."

"Dramatic phases of retreat, like the one the glaciers are experiencing now, remove the buttress effect provided by the glacier – essentially a door stop that makes the surrounding hillslopes more stable. Without it, the hillslopes are more unstable and likely to fail which leads to more sediment being delivered down-valley. At Fox Glacier, this extra sediment is what has resulted in the valley floor rapidly increasing in elevation."

The Department of Conservation earlier this year announced that the Franz Josef and Fox may be accessed only by air. Dr McColl says this was the first time in 11 years that the annual field trip they lead for students was unable to access the glacier. He said while the lack of access was disappointing for the students – as it was for members of the public – it did not prevent them carrying out their detailed study of the adjoining valley.

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7 comments

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gkam
5 / 5 (2) Jan 22, 2015
Calling JamesG!

Calling JamesG!
JamesG
not rated yet Jan 22, 2015
Haha. Cool. I'm famous. Or infamous depending on the observer.
Sherrin
4.3 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2015
It would have been useful to the reader to know which country this article referred to. "West coast glacier'' - could have been Norway, USA, Chile ... you get the idea. Only reference to South Island finally gave it away as NZ.
ubavontuba
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2015
It would have been useful to the reader to know which country this article referred to. "West coast glacier'' - could have been Norway, USA, Chile ... you get the idea. Only reference to South Island finally gave it away as NZ.
Here is some more information about it.

http://en.wikiped..._Glacier

katesisco
1.3 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2015
I am not at all convinced about the theory of isostasy, the rebounding of land in response to the melting of ice overburden.
http://milesmathis.com/iso.pdf

katesisco
1.3 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2015
Maggnus
4.9 / 5 (7) Jan 25, 2015
I am not at all convinced about the theory of isostasy, the rebounding of land in response to the melting of ice overburden.
http://milesmathis.com/iso.pdf


But you think the expanding earth theory is a better fit? I'm afraid you'll need to do more convincing than providing an opinion piece like that one. It is riddled with fallacies, contradictory statements and just plain old bad science.

I love this part: "I can't think of evidence that would be more clear or convincing to me." That statement, in and of itself, should make you question anything further that Mathis has to say.

BTW you should be aware that glacial isostasy has been measured. It's actually hard to argue against facts. They are pesky things!

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