People in Iceland are erecting a plaque to eulogize the country's first glacier lost to climate change
- In Iceland, locals and scientists have created a plaque to eulogize the former Okjökull glacier.
- In 2014, Okjökull lost its status as a glacier because of how much it had shrunk due to climate change.
- The plaque will stand in Okjökull's place starting in August.
- Iceland loses almost 25 square miles of glacier each year due to global warming. Some scientists predict that the country could lose all its glaciers by 2200.
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Where a glacier once covered nearly 6 square miles of land in Iceland, there will soon be only a commemorative plaque beside a small patch of snow.
The glacier, once known as Okjökull ("jökull" means glacier in Icelandic) lost its status as a glacier in 2014, since it had shrunk below one square mile and was barely 50 feet deep, according to The Guardian. Rising temperatures due to climate change caused the glacier to melt.
Now it is known simply as "Ok."
Glaciologists dubbed the remaining portion "dead ice," since glacial flow had ceased.
To memorialize the former glacier, author Andri Snår Magnason and geologist Oddur Sigurðsson (who first declared Ok's new status) plan to install a plaque. The sign will be unveiled August 18, in partnership with the Icelandic Hiking Society, at the site of the former glacier.
"This will be the first monument to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world," Cymene Howe, an anthropologist at Rice University who directed a documentary about the glacier, said in a press release. "By marking Ok's passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth's glaciers expire."
Here's what the plaque, titled "A letter to the future," says:
The last line - "Only you know if we did it" - serves as an unnerving message to people in the future who will pass by the site.
Below the text, the plaque records the current concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: a record-breaking 415 parts per million. The concentration hasn't been that high since at least 800,000 years ago, before humans evolved.
Howe co-produced the documentary about the glacier, called "Not Ok," last year with her colleague Dominic Boyer. The two plan to join the group installing the plaque next month.
Though glaciers in Iceland have undergone brief periods of expansion, they're shrinking overall due to climate change. Iceland loses almost 25 square miles of glacier each year.
"Its fate will be shared by all of Iceland's glaciers unless we act now to radically curtail greenhouse gas emissions," Boyer said of Ok.
Some scientists predict that all the country's glaciers could be completely gone by 2200. If that happens, it would raise global sea levels by an additional centimeter.
"With this memorial, we want to underscore that it is up to us, the living, to collectively respond to the rapid loss of glaciers and the ongoing impacts of climate change. For Ok glacier it is already too late," Howe said.