2017 Highlights

To follow is a copy of the email sent out on the SIRG email list by Heather Purdie, the New Zealand correspondent to the International Glaciolocal Society.

Kia ora SIRG,

Another year has almost passed so here is a quick run-down on some of the 2017 SIRG highlights…

 2017 kicked off with the’ International Symposium on the Cryosphere in a Changing Climate’ hosted at VUW in Wellington. Thanks to all SIRG members who helped to make this an exciting and successful symposium. Check out the latest issue of ICE for some great accounts of the symposium and field trips. https://www.igsoc.org/ice/2017/173/ice173_col.pdf

Glacier Monitoring

  • Out of our 3100+ glaciers only Brewster and Rolleston have ongoing mass balance programmes. 2017 saw the Brewster programme, led by Brian Anderson (VUW) and Nicolas Cullen (Otago), enter its 13th year, while the Rolleston programme, led by Tim Kerr (Aqualinc) and Heather Purdie (UC), entered its 7th consecutive year.  Thanks to all SIRG members who give their time to help with these important field programmes.
  • Ongoing monitoring of Franz Josef Glacier/Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere (Brian Anderson) and Fox Glacier/Te Moeka o Tuawe (Heather Purdie & Brian Anderson) indicate that Franz has been slowly advancing since December 2016, and while the advance is small so far, the glacier continues to thicken upstream. In a similar vein, Fox is starting to thicken upstream, although this signal has not yet stimulated any action at the terminus.
  • The NIWA EOSS programme is now into its 40th consecutive year. This is an extremely valuable monitoring programme and database, and we hope that it continues for another 40 years!
  • Sabine Baumann (Technical University of Munich) has been working with a number of SIRG members to update the NZ Glacier Inventory which will be presented at AGU in December.


Special congratulations to Andrew Mackintosh on his promotion to Professor of Earth and Climate Sciences at Victoria University.

 Funding Success

  • Dan Price (UC) has been awarded a Marsden Fast-start for research on Antarctic sea ice thickness.
  • David Prior (Otago), Huw Horgan (VUW), Christina Hulbe (Otago), and colleagues, have had Marsden success for research aiming to develop new flow laws for ice sheets.
  • Andrew Mackintosh (VUW), Brian Anderson (VUW) and colleagues have been awarded Marsden funding to explore whether a previous collapse of the Antarctic Ice Sheet caused abrupt climate change in the Southern Hemisphere.

Check-out the Royal Society website for full details of these new projects  https://royalsociety.org.nz/what-we-do/funds-and-opportunities/marsden/awarded-grants/marsden-awards-2017/

  • A number of SIRG members have been successful securing funding for various other projects including (but not limited to)  Ian Fuller (Massey), Sam McColl (Massey) and colleagues have received funding from the Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust for research on the response of the Franz Josef and Fox Glacier valleys to climate variability and glacier retreat. Heather Purdie (UC), Tim Kerr (Aqualinc) and colleagues also secured Brian Mason funding to help reinvigorate snow research at Broken River ski field. David Prior and colleagues received a University of Otago Research Grant to improve understanding of mechanical anisotropy of ice. Andrew Mackintosh (VUW) and colleagues secured funding from The Deep South National Science Challenge to undertake research on the impact of climate change to NZ’s frozen water resources. This last project is a truly collaborative effort, bringing together nine NZ snow and ice researchers from a range of NZ institutions!

Recent Theses

  • Edmond Lui, PhD (VUW), Ice Dynamics of the Haupapa/Tasman Glacier Measured at High Spatial and Temporal Resolution, Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand.
  • Matthew Vaughan, PhD (Otago), Creep behaviour and acoustic properties of polycrystalline ice.
  • Meike Seidemann, PhD (Otago, submitted). Microstructural evolution of polycrystalline ice during non-steady state creep.
  • Michelle Ryan, MSc (UC), Characteristics of the Ross and Southern McMurdo ice shelves as revealed from ground-based radar surveys.
  • Ekki Scheffler, MSc (UC), Tide induced velocity fluctuations in the grounding zone of Darwin Glacier, Antarctica, revealed by GNSS and SAR satellite imagery.
  • Sam Taylor-Offord, MSc (VUW), Seismic and Geodetic Observations of Accelerated Sliding at Tasman Glacier, New Zealand.
  • Merijn Thornton MSc (VUW, pending) The Response of Brewster Glacier to Five Decades of Climate.


There have been a number of excellent publications by our SIRG members this year; too many to list here. Below is a selection of publications from some of our SIRG post-graduates. I will forward all the other citations SIRG members sent to me to Tim Kerr, who maintains the SIRG Bibliography. Please remember to send Tim your citations so that he can keep our SIRG page up-to-date. https://sirg.org.nz/about/bibliography/

  • Vaughan, M., Prior, D. J., Brantut, N., Jefferd, M., Mitchell, T. M., and Seidemann, M., 2017, Insights into anisotropy development and weakening of ice from p-wave velocity monitoring during creep. J. Geophysical Research. DOI: 10.1002/2017JB013964.
  • Wild, C.T., Marsh, O.J., Rack, W. (2017). Viscosity and elasticity: a model intercomparison of ice-shelf bending in an Antarctic grounding zone, Journal of Glaciology, 63(240), 573-580.
  • Lauren J. Vargo, Brian M. Anderson, Huw J. Horgan, Andrew N. Mackintosh, Andrew M. Lorrey, and Merijn Thornton. Using Structure from Motion photogrammetry to measure past glacier changes from historic aerial photograph. Journal of Glaciology (accepted).

 So there you have it, some 2017 SIRG highlights, and an email that has hopefully not been so long that you have not made it to this sentence!

I know there will have been other publications, funds awarded, and news, which I have missed. Please accept my apologies for any omissions.

To keep us all up-to-date, make sure you come along to SIRG 2018 at Mt Hutt Retreat, Methven, in February J

 Best wishes for your research/holiday season….

 Ko te pae tawhiti whāia kia tata, ko te pae tata whakamaua kia tīna

Seek out distant horizons, and cherish those you attain


 (as national correspondent for the NZ branch of the IGS (SIRG)

Dr Heather Purdie

Pūkenga Matua

Department of Geography

University of Canterbury Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha

Private Bag 4800


New Zealand

+643 3694131