Snowbanks in Spring

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I traveled to New Zealand this February (2017) and was lucky to have fantastic weather in Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park.  Tasman Glacier is the biggest glacier in New Zealand, containing about 1/3 of all New Zealand’s ice!  GoogleEarth (download it and get to know this planet, it’s amazing) is great for quick measurements of Tasman Glacier Lake width (~1.9 km or 1.2 miles).  Tasman Glacier changed quite a bit between 2017 (top image) and 2007 (second image).  One tricky thing about comparing these images is that they are front-on, so we cannot really see how far the glacier melted back, but you can see some of this glacier length change in aerial photographs (including GoogleEarth) by comparing past and present photographs.   Over the past decade, the tour company that takes people out on the lake in boats had to get bigger, stronger motors in order to get tourists up to the glacier terminus in the limited amount of time each tour has.  It is amazing to see photos of the Tasman before the lake formed in the early 1980s, and even more amazing to see photos with white ice surface instead of the debris-covered glacier surface shown above (glaciers get dirtier as they melt, just like a snowbank in spring).

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