Iceland holds funeral for 700-year-old glacier killed by climate change

Iceland's Okjokull glacier spanned 15 square miles in 1901. Now it spans less than half a square mile.

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Attendees at Sunday's funeral for Okjokull. 

Jeremie Richard/AFP/Getty Images

If current global warming trends continue, melting glaciers will cause sea levels to rise. This will destroy coastal habitats and lead to more typhoons and hurricanes. So it should come as at least a little concerning that Iceland has begun to bid adieu to its, um, ice

On Sunday a funeral was held in Iceland to commemorate Okjokull, what was once a vast glacier, reports the Associated Press. It was estimated to span 15 square miles (38 square kilometers) in 1901. It now takes up less than half a square mile (under 1 square kilometer), according to NASA's Earth Observatory.

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." 






The funeral is actually a few years late, as Okjokull 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.

The ceremony's purpose was to ring the alarm about climate change, which, between heat waves in Europe, the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef 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.