18 January 2005

Glacier 'grows 3m a day'

Wellington - While glaciers around the world are said to be shrinking because of global warning, the Franz Josef in New Zealand's Southern Alps is growing about three metres a day, it was reported on Tuesday.

Climate scientist Jim Salinger blamed the movement on continued cold and stormy weather throughout New Zealand's changeable summer which has caused a build-up of snow and ice at the head of the glacier, the Dominion Post reported.

He said global warming had been blamed for the glacier, one of the main tourist attractions in the Westland National Park, retreating 550 metres between 1999 and 2003, but it had now reversed itself.

The glacier, which extends for about 10 kilometres from the main divide of the Southern Alps, descends in a gradient of about 100 metres in 500 metres.

Franz Josef Glacier Guides manager Mark Mellsop said the growth was wiping out paths and the glacier would be inaccessible to tourists if new tracks and bridges were not created every day.

But local Conservation Department manager Ian McClure said the affected area was behind wire rope barriers and tourists who did not cross them were safe.

The glacier was named after Franz Josef, emperor of Austria-Hungary, in 1865 by geologist explorer Julius von Haast.


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