The bushfires in Australia are turning New Zealand glaciers brown and could accelerate their melting. This is due to a large amount of smoke and ash making their way to New Zealand.
Now, a color change may not sound that bad, but it really is. Glaciers have the ability to reflect sunlight thanks to their white coloring. In fact, this is why snowy regions like Antarctica are referred to as the planet’s cooling system.
However, once you take that white coloring away, they lose this ability. Now they will absorb more sunlight and as a result, melt much faster.
The Albedo Effect
The Albedo effect is the scientific term used to describe the reflection of the sun’s rays.
Due to this phenomenon, areas that are covered with snow or ice reflect more sunlight then they absorb. This results in the regions having a lower temperature.
Once other “darker” particles lodge themselves into the ice and snow, like the ash from the Australian fires, the temperature increases.
A similar example of this is how the Amazon fires have had an impact on the Andean glaciers. Black carbon and dust particles were found on the glacier and have been traced back to the Amazon.
How Bad Are The Bushfires?
The fires Australia is experiencing right now are the worst the country has seen in decades. Not a single Australian state has been spared from fire damage.
Homes near bush or woodlands are at serious risk. Over 900 homes have already been destroyed and at least 18 people have been killed as a result.
However, the fires are not just destroying the land. They are also affecting the air. At one point the air quality of Sydney was 11 times above the “hazardous” levels.
And now we are seeing the effects of the smoke and ash on New Zealand glaciers.
The worst part is the fires in Australia have been burning for over a month with no end in sight.