Published on 8 January 2020
Austral summer is a popular time for hikers to tramp across the stunning New Zealand back country. But this year in the mountains of South Island, there are hints of events unfolding 2,000 kilometers away. Carried by the wind, dust and ash particles from Australia have painted some glaciers in New Zealand with a brown-orange tint.
The natural-color image pair above, acquired with the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, shows areas of dirty snow and ice in New Zealand’s Southern Alps. The right image was acquired on November 11, 2019, during an extremely hot and dry season in eastern Australia. For comparison, the left image shows the same area on December 15, 2014, during a more typical year.
The images show part of Mount Aspiring National Park, a mountainous and glaciated wilderness at the southern end of the Southern Alps. The image below shows a wide view of the region, including the park’s tallest mountain and namesake, Mount Aspiring (called Tititea by the Māori). Ancient glaciers carved the mountain into a pyramid shape, the peak of which now towers 700 meters above the park’s largest modern glaciers—the Bonar, Therma, and Volta. More than 100 other glaciers dot the region. Many appear at least partly covered with the colorful particles.