New Zealand's glaciers turn brown due to Australian bushfire smoke

Smoke, ash and dust emitted from Australian bushfires has turned neighbouring New Zealand's glaciers, brown, with a potential to accelerate their melting

Many in New Zealand woke up to an orange hazed sky and a red sun on the first day of 2020. The snow-clad Southern Alps was photographed brown and this phenomenon highlights, how one countries' catastrophe, can have a spill-over effect, on another.

New Zealand's glaciers turn brown: Reasons and effect

New Zealand glaciers

Glaciers in New Zealand have turned brown, due to dust and smoke from Australian bushfires. Smoke and dust from eastern and south-eastern Australia drifted east and spread over New Zealand's glaciers, turning their color to a shade of caramel.

Professor Andrew Mackintosh from Australia's Monash University said that in his two decades of studying New Zealand's glaciers, he had not seen such amount of dust being transported from Australia to New Zealand, and has a potential of increasing this season's glacial melting by 20-30%, Guardian reported.

"It is quite common for dust to be transported to New Zealand glaciers, but I would say that the amount of transport right now is pretty phenomenal – I don't think I've ever seen anything like it," Mackintosh said.

White colour of glaciers reflects the sunlight back

The glaciers would melt faster as the white colour of glaciers reflects the sunlight back, thereby slowing down glacial melting; while the brown-coloured snow, will lack this property. Though the 20-30% figure, is just an estimate. New Zealand's former Prime Minister Helen Clark took to Twitter to draw attention to this issue.

Helen Clark Twitter

On Wednesday, sky in New Zealand's South Island was covered with an orange haze and sun turned red; after an overnight eastwards shift of dust and smoke emitted out of the catastrophic Australian bushfires, that has ravaged the nation, since October, killing at least 17 and destroying up to 900 homes in New South Wales, alone.

New Zealand sky

A spokesperson for the Queenstown Lakes District Council said that no health warnings has been issued, but the visibility remains poor. "It is quite odd, I looked out the window and expected to see sunshine and it was this weird beige haze, I've never been in a nuclear fallout but that's what it looked like", he further added.