The catastrophic effects of Australia’s bushfires are being felt as far as New Zealand, with travelling dust particles turning many of its famous glaciers red and pink.
Startling photos taken this week have revealed just how fires burning through hundreds of thousands of hectares in Australia are potentially damaging glaciers in Mount Aspiring National Park on New Zealand’s South Island.
Travel writer and photographer Liz Carlson was on a helicopter tour over the Southern Alps when she saw first-hand the “tragic” change to glaciers after smoke and dust from bushfires in New South Wales and Queensland made their way across the Tasman Sea.
“It’s pretty remarkable to see the impact of the fires from so far away,” she wrote on her blog Young Adventuress.
“Our glaciers don’t need any more battles as they are already truly endangered; it puts the impact of climate change into even more stark reality we can’t ignore.”
The distance between New South Wales and Mount Aspiring National Park is more than 1600 kilometres.
Ms Carlson acknowledged that Australia was experiencing “immense and unprecedented” bushfires that have been “definitely exacerbated by climate change”.
“Our poor struggling glaciers don’t need this,” she said.
“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,” she told CNN.
The burning forests in the Amazon have already had a damaging impact on glaciers in South America’s Andes mountains, which scientists say are consequently melting at a much faster rate had it not been for the blazes.
That’s not the only example.
“It’s well known that pollution and dust, for example, that originates in India and China can travel all the way across the Pacific Ocean to the US and that’s a good deal further,” UNSW Associate Professor Liz Ritchie, specialising in climate science, told The New Daily.
“And we have been under this very strong westerly regime over the past two or three weeks so its very likely that the particles from our bushfires have carried at least as far as New Zealand and even maybe all the way to South America,”
Interestingly, the pink and red covering the glaciers is the colour of the fire retardant that firebombing aircraft drop onto fires, Dr Ritchie said.
She said it might possibly cause the ice on these glaciers to melt because “you are putting a dust or an ash onto ice that may affect the thermal properties, such that its possible it would absorb more sunlight and thus heat.”