Iceland Bids Farewell to First Glacier Lost to Climate Change

19/08/2019

Mourners in Iceland gathered Sunday to bid a final farewell to 700-year-old Okjokull, the first Icelandic glacier lost to climate change.

After about 100 people, including Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, Environment Minister Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson, and former Irish President Mary Robinson, made a two-hour hike up the Ok volcano for the ceremony.

Children installed a memorial plaque to the glacier, now called just “Ok,” its name missing “jokull”, the Icelandic word for glacier.

People climb to the top of what once was the Okjokull glacier, in Iceland, Aug. 18, 2019.

The plaque bears the inscription “A letter to the future”, and is intended to raise awareness about the decline of glaciers and the effects of climate change.

“In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it,” it reads.

The dedication, written by Icelandic author Andri Snaer Magnason, ends with the date of the ceremony and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air globally – 415 parts per million (ppm).

“We see the consequences of the climate crisis,”Jakobsdottir said. “We have no time to lose.”
 

A girl holds a sign that reads ‘pull the emergency brake’ as she attends a ceremony in the area which once was the Okjokull glacier, in Iceland, Aug. 18, 2019.

Jakobsdottir said she plans to make climate change a priority when Nordic leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet in Reykjavik on Tuesday.

Okjokull was was officially declared dead in 2014 when it was no longer thick enough to move. but now all that’s left of the glacier is a small patch of ice atop a volcano.

Glaciologist Oddur Sigurdsson of the Icelandic Meteorological Office was the first to declare Okjokull dead.

When enough ice builds up, the pressure forces the whole mass to move. “That’s where the limit is between a glacier and not a glacier,” Sigurdsson explains. “It needs to be 40 to 50 meters thick to reach that pressure limit.”

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