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Iceland: Scientists to Put Stone in Memory of Okjökull Glacier

  • Aerial photo of the area where the Okjokull glacier was located, Iceland, 2014.

    Aerial photo of the area where the Okjokull glacier was located, Iceland, 2014. | Photo: EFE

Published 17 August 2019

Environmental activists will remember the first North Atlantic glacier "killed" by global climate change in 2014.

Scientists and environmental activists will build a memorial on Sunday to pay tribute to "the death" of Okjökull (Ok), the first Icelandic glacier which disappeared due to global climate change in 2014.


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"Ok is the first Icelantic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. 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. August 2019, 415 ppmCO2," the plaque reads.

Icelandic Hiking Society and other environmentally-concerned citizens will climb 1,400 meters until they reach the top of what was once Okjökull glacier.

The origin of this memorial dates back to 2014 when geologist Oddur Sigurðsson declared Okjökull glacier as officially dead.

"It was something that had been coming for a long time. It was not in good health, it was shrinking very fast," he said and recalled that he found that the glacier was well below its traditional limits.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the glacier's ice sheet was 15 square kilometers and 50 meters thick. In 2014, however, Okjökull was less than one square kilometer and less 15 meters deep, which made the geologist consider it "a block of dead ice".

Nowadays, when refering to this environmental disaster, the inhabitants of the island just speak about the "OK mountain."

“Many tourists in Iceland are enchanted by the opportunity to walk across glaciers or thrilled to snowmobile across them. The Un-glacier Tour is different. It is a guided hike to the top of the Ok mountain and an opportunity to see the glacial remains of Okjökull, before this thin bit of ice disappears entirely,” the promoters of the memorial said.

To make visible worldwide what is going on, Dominic Boyer and Cymene Howe, two anthropologists from Rice University (U.S.), contacted Sigurðsson in 2018 and filmed the "Not OK" documentary.

"That a small Icelandic glacier disappears does not make much difference; however, it is an sign of what is happening around the world. It is something that will have a huge impact on most countries and people," the geologist said and recalled that more of 300 surviving glaciers will disappear in less two hundred years, if the global temperature increases by 2 degrees per century.

"It is an alarming fact. Iceland will be very different for the next generations," Sigurðsson lamented and explained that Iceland has meant "land of ice" so far.

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