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‘Slipping through our fingers’: New Zealand scientists distraught at scale of glacier

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The plane’s engine groans, and its small frame rises. Through a thin membrane of cloud, the spine of the southern alps rises like a dark sawblade.

“I’m wondering if my favourite glacier is going to be there,” says principal climate scientist Dr Andrew Lorrey. “We’ve had a really, really hot one this summer. It’s hard to say. We’ll just have to see how they’ve gone.”

‘It’s going so fast’: The decline of New Zealand’s glaciers – video

In the pre-sunrise darkness of Sunday morning, the small group of six scientists had gathered on the asphalt of a small Queenstown airfield, packing cameras into backpacks as a wash of colour leaked over the mountains. For most of the next eight hours, they would sit twisted in their seats, spines cramping, lenses trained to the windows to capture the peaks of the southern alps as they emerged from thickets of cloud. This is New Zealand’s annual snowline survey, a single annual charter flight run by climate research institute Niwa that attempts to capture the state of the country’s glaciers before winter sets in. Today, on the…

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