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Exploring New Zealand's Southern Alps and Glaciers

The Southern Alps is a mountain range located on the South Island of New Zealand. The western area of this island is known for its famous glaciers. The highest point is on Mount Cook, which reaches altitudes of about 12,349 feet. It is only 20 miles from the summit westward across the coastal strip to the Pacific Ocean. Toward the east side of where the glacier is located, the land descends about 80 miles across the Canterbury Plains. The winds that blow from the Tasman Sea are loaded with moisture, and when the damp air rises against the mountains, it drops big snowballs. The three most known glaciers are the Fox, Frans Josef, and Tasman. However, they are facing threats of melting due to climate change.

The glaciers on the west side of the mountains are steep and short. On the eastern side, the glaciers are different. The higher parts are rugged and steep. The Franz Josef and Fox glaciers flow on the western side. Both are by the Westland National Park, an area containing glaciers, rivers, lakes, alpine peaks, and snow fields. Lake Matheson shows a famous view of three of its major peaks which are Tasman, La Perouse, and Cook.

The Tasman Glacier flows down Mount Cook; it is also the largest in New Zealand. The glacier creates a narrow part of ice 17 miles long that widens in places as much as two miles, moving about 20 to 25 inches per day. Although its fast speed is incredible, the glacier is starting to retreat; its lowest end is at 2,500 feet above sea level.

New Zealand experienced its most recent process of glaciation in the last Ice Age and was entirely covered in ice until the Earth started to heat up again 100 centuries ago. To this day, New Zealand’s glaciers are slowly retreating and the results of current global warming might lead to them completely melting.

[Source: Glaciers of the Southern Alps - 100 Great Wonders Of the World]

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