Posted in | News

700-Year-Old Icelandic Glacier Melts Due to Climate Change

The Former Okjӧkull Glacier. Image Credit: Rice University

We know what is happening and know what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.

This line concludes the somber inscription on the memorial plaque laid at the site of a monument unveiled in Borgarfjörður, Iceland, to memorialize Okjökull, known as Ok for short.

Titled, “A letter to the future” the plaque reveals, “Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier.” This revelation leaves us with the lasting impression that things are far from ok in terms of the forecasted global impact the looming climate disaster holds in store for the future of the planet.

Furthermore, with recent temperatures soaring above freezing in Greenland leading to 12.5 billion tonnes of ice melting in one day – enough to cover the entire land-mass of Germany in almost 7cm (2.75 inches) of water – we will discover within the next decade as to whether humanity has done enough to prevent catastrophe.

In recent years scholars and scientists have latched onto the term for the current geological epoch the “Anthropocene” which was first coined in 2000 by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen, and later addressed by Eugene F. Stoermer, in IGBP’s Global Change newsletter 41. Initially, it was the geologists usually responsible for defining these terms, that struggled to accept this new claim believing it absurd that all of a sudden a relatively young species such as humanity was now “genuine geological force.”

Yet, now unable to ignore human impact on the acceleration of the melting ice in Greenland and Iceland alike, geologists have come to predict a bleak series of consequences in store for humanity and the planet. These include; displacing up to a fifth of the global population leading to a surge of climate refugees that under current international laws would not be granted asylum by industrialized countries; land masses disappearing altogether, including the Marshall Islands, the Maldives and Tuvalu.

In fact, already the Marshall Islands has seen a proportional migration of its population migrate to rural Arkansas. Leading to not just geographical displacement but also risking the loss of cultural heritage for this community; damage to the world’s economy as 90 percent of trade is carried by sea, rising sea levels would cause devastation to the infrastructure of ports worldwide creating a domino effect that would severely impact peoples access to food, water, and energy.

Furthermore, there are risks to public health as rising sea levels would cause more flooding and damaging sewage and water treatment plants which would mean increased pollution to sources of water which helps spread diseases.

Iceland commemorates first glacier that 'died' by climate change

In order to circumvent the very worst repercussions of climate change, scientists have warned we must limit global temperature rise to 1.5ºC. Compared with the temperatures of the 1800s, before widespread industrialization, the planet has already warmed about 1ºC. If temperature rises continue to spiral upwards at today's rate, they may rise by between 3 to 5ºC by the end of the century. This is beyond the realm of catastrophe and into that of apocalypse.

The United Nations assembled a climate panel that produced a major report back in 2013 predicting that by the end of this century current sea levels would rise between 52-98 cm (20.4 inches to 38.5 inches). Yet, many scientists saw those estimations as understated and the models used to determine these figures did not take into consideration all eventualities.

Given the current trends and warning signs we see and experience, from the rapid disappearance of the carbon-rich permafrost to the extreme weather conditions around the world, the scientists wary of the aforementioned UN reports may have had every right to be skeptical. Prof. Cymene Howe of Rice, told the UK Guardian last month that the plaque, “would be the first to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world.” She said that an Icelandic colleague told her, “Memorials are not for the dead; they are for the living.”

So, with humanity possibly facing its largest challenge to date, solutions are required to prevent further losses of the massive white sheets of ice that work to reflect rays from the sun back into the environment, keeping temperatures mild. With agreements and actions on climate change such as the UN’s Paris Agreement progress is an ongoing process.

Only future generations will, “know if we did it.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

David J. Cross

Written by

David J. Cross

David is an academic researcher and interdisciplinary artist. David's current research explores how science and technology, particularly the internet and artificial intelligence, can be put into practice to influence a new shift towards utopianism and the reemergent theory of the commons.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Cross, David. (2019, November 01). 700-Year-Old Icelandic Glacier Melts Due to Climate Change. AZoCleantech. Retrieved on February 24, 2024 from

  • MLA

    Cross, David. "700-Year-Old Icelandic Glacier Melts Due to Climate Change". AZoCleantech. 24 February 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    Cross, David. "700-Year-Old Icelandic Glacier Melts Due to Climate Change". AZoCleantech. (accessed February 24, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Cross, David. 2019. 700-Year-Old Icelandic Glacier Melts Due to Climate Change. AZoCleantech, viewed 24 February 2024,

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this news story?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type
Azthena logo powered by Azthena AI

Your AI Assistant finding answers from trusted AZoM content

Azthena logo with the word Azthena

Your AI Powered Scientific Assistant

Hi, I'm Azthena, you can trust me to find commercial scientific answers from

A few things you need to know before we start. Please read and accept to continue.

  • Use of “Azthena” is subject to the terms and conditions of use as set out by OpenAI.
  • Content provided on any AZoNetwork sites are subject to the site Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.
  • Large Language Models can make mistakes. Consider checking important information.

Great. Ask your question.

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.