They arrived on Sunday in parkas and ski hats, mountaineering throughout the rocky terrain the place Iceland’s Okjokull glacier as soon as flourished. Today it’s a watery grave, which scientists and politicians say is the positioning of the nation’s first glacier misplaced to local weather change.
A lake of melted ice now dominates the panorama amid a barren stretch of stone and filth. The web site was renamed to Ok after “jokull,” that means “glacier” in Icelandic, was dropped.
In 2014, Oddur Sigurosson, one of the nation’s main glaciologists, declared Okjokull useless, saying the ice was too skinny for it to qualify as a glacier. To mark its finish, Icelanders unveiled a bronze plaque with a warning: “In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path.”
Iceland is just not the one place the place glaciers face extinction, however a rise in international temperatures poses an existential menace to 1 of the nation’s signature sights. Glaciers cowl 11 % of Iceland and are distinguished sights and sources of tourism.
Okjokull is west of the Langjokull glacier. Glacier tours abound, with ice climbing, hiking, cave tours and snowmobile adventures attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists to Iceland’s 4,500 square miles of glaciers each year.
In the 12 months ending in July, 2.14 million people visited Iceland. Of those, 88 percent were on vacation.
In the Langjokull glacier in western Iceland, a man-made ice tunnel — the largest of its kind in Europe — was constructed in 2015.
Bjorn Gudmundsson, the sales and marketing manager of Into The Glacier, a company that takes tourists inside the tunnels, said on Monday that he had seen more leakage in the tunnels this year as higher temperatures had caused the ice walls to melt.
“It’s been one of the wettest periods,” he said.
As many as 60,000 visitors tour the caves each year. He said that there was little snow this year, and that crevices in the glacier were appearing faster than normal.
Visitors often ask about how climate change is affecting the glaciers, he said. “We try to educate, so when people leave, they understand the impact on the environment,” he said.
The effect, though, can be difficult for infrequent vacationers to fathom.
“This is a big glacier,” he said. “I’ll probably be dead when it will disappear.”
A tour operator, Arctic Adventures, conducted a survey of more than 250 customers about climate change and travel. Of those who answered, 68 percent said they were concerned about it and more than half said they were more concerned after visiting Iceland.
Glaciers are receding in Alaska and California, among other places. In 2013, Earth Island Institute, an environmental nonprofit in Berkeley, Calif., published an article in its magazine that documented California’s receding glaciers.
“The glacial retreat is merely the most visible evidence of a larger and more troubling phenomenon for California’s human inhabitants,” it said.
But in Iceland, the loss has been acutely felt.
The country’s prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, said in an Op-Ed in The New York Times that the loss of Okjokull foretold a looming disaster that could eventually mar Iceland’s frozen beauty.
“In just a few decades, Iceland may no longer be characterized by the iconic Snaefellsjokull, famously known as the entrance to Earth in Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth,’” she wrote. “But if new beauty replaces the old, does the disappearance of these glaciers matter to anyone other than ice-loving Icelanders and visitors?”
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