Iceland Holds Funeral to Commemorate First Glacier Lost to Climate Change

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glacier, Iceland, funeral
1986 v 2019. Credit: NASA

A funeral was held in Iceland on Sunday to remember Okjokull, what was once a vast glacier, reports the Associated Press. In 1901 it was estimated to span 15 square miles (38 square kilometers) but now takes up less than half a square mile (under 1 square kilometer).

Icelandic geologist Oddur Sigurðsson presented to the audience, which included Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, former president of Ireland Mary Robinson and around 100 others, a death certificate for Okjokull. In a symbolic move, a plaque was planted with a message to future generations. It reads:

“Ok is the first Icelandic 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.”

Okjokull actually lost its glacier status in 2014. Since jokull is Icelandic for volcano, the former glacier now just goes by Ok, named after the volcano it rested atop.

glacier, Iceland, funeral
A letter to the future…

The ceremony’s purpose was to ring the alarm about climate change, which, between heat waves in Europe and now epidemic melting of ice, is already changing life on Earth. Iceland is far from the only cold country experiencing landmark melts; climate scientist and glaciologist Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute took to Twitter earlier in August to share the sobering news that Greenland lost 11 gigatons of ice in a single day.

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