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The sun rises through the smoke from Australia's bushfires over New Brighton Beach in Christchurch, New Zealand on Wednesday. Photo: Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Australia's wildfires are so intense that smoke from the blazes has traveled over 1,200 miles to blanket parts of New Zealand's South Island, and images show it's turned the country's white glaciers in the Southern Alps brown.

Why it matters: Monash University professor Andrew Mackintosh, the former director of the Antarctic Research Centre, said in almost 20 years of studying the glaciers, he'd "never seen such a quantity of dust transported across the Tasman," and he estimated the bushfires could potentially "increase this season's glacier melt by 20–30%," per the Guardian.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

What they're saying: "It is quite common for dust to be transported to New Zealand glaciers, but I would say that the amount of transport right now is pretty phenomenal – I don't think I've ever seen anything like it," Mackintosh told the Guardian. "It is concerning to me to see so much material being deposited on the glaciers."

  • Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke tweeted her concern about the effects of the smoke, ash and dust on the glaciers.
"How one country's tragedy has spillover effects: Australian bushfires have created haze in New Zealand with particular impact on the south of the South Island yesterday & now spreading more widely. Impact of ash on glaciers is likely to accelerate melting."

The big picture: New Zealand's MetService said the smoke could "clearly be seen over the lower South Island," with visibility in the smoke haze as low as low as six miles in the worst affected areas.

  • By Thursday afternoon local time, much of the smoke had dispersed but sunset "may still have a tinge of orange" to it in some parts of the country, the national forecaster said in a tweet.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Go deeper: Australia fires: Race to evacuate thousands before conditions worsen

Go deeper

Updated 19 mins ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.

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