11 Jan 2011

Glaciers ruled by rain and snow - climatologist

9:06 am on 11 January 2011

Otago University climatologist Nicolas Cullen says the future rate of glacier retreat in this country may depend on whether it rains or snows.

His comments follow an article in the journal, Nature Geoscience on Sunday, which predicted glaciers in New Zealand will decline between 65% - 79% by 2100.

Researchers used 10 climate models to simulate changes in 120,000 glaciers throughout the world.

Mr Cullen says New Zealand's glaciers are prone to retreat because they are easily affected by changes in temperature and precipitation.

He says the study provided a good broad look at glaciers in New Zealand but more specialised research needs to done.

Dr Jim Salinger, formerly of the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, also says New Zealand glaciers are prone to change because of high precipitation in alpine areas, which can easily fluctuate from snow to rain with a small change in temperature.