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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999

New Zealand Snow Fields Shrink (JUNE 1999)

Item #d99jun33

In a story in the April 28, 1999, issue of The Press (of New Zealand) Seth Robson cited work by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research that showed that snow volumes in the Southern Alps had been reduced to the lowest levels on record by drought. The March 1999 annual survey of snow and ice volumes showed that all of the snow that had accumulated during the past winter had melted along with snow that had remained from previous years. Scientists found that, in Fiordland, peaks that had always had snow on them in summer were bare and that alpine vegetation was growing at higher attitudes than normal. The melted snow ran off in rivers, such as the Waimakariri, producing flooding of those rivers during much of the summer, the retreating of glaciers, and deficits in many South Island water catchments. However, significant rainfall later in the other seasons made up for that deficit in hydro-dam lakes, where levels were about average and inflows were above average.

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