It’s official. Climate change is here and is starting to wipe out parts of our planet we’ll never be able to get back. Due to rising temperatures, Iceland has lost its first glacier. Rice University scientists decided to mourn and memorialize the fallen glacier by installing a plaque. Climate change is here and the effects are real. Read on to learn more about the glacier and what climate change means for the rest of the Earth’s ice.

The plaque

The glacier formerly known as Ok Glacier in Iceland has sadly melted due to rising temperatures. The glacier has not only melted it has actually completely disappeared. While other glaciers have shrunk in size Ok Glacier is gone completely. Scientists from Rice University decided to mark the sad occasion by installing a plaque. This is actually the first glacier lost in Iceland. Unfortunately, scientists believe all glaciers in Iceland will melt completely by 2200.

The Plaque near the former site of Ok Glacier reads:

“A letter to the future. 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 know what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it. August 2019, 415 ppm CO2.”

The notation, “415 ppm CO2” is in reference to the amount of carbon dioxide recorded in the atmosphere in May of 2019. Since we keep emitting more carbon pollution into the environment, we’re on track to beat that record next year. Adding it to the plaque is a way to remind everyone of the problems we’ll face in the future if we don’t make better choices.

What happens when a glacier melts

A glacier is made up of snow that has fallen over many years and formed into large ice masses. The snow that stays in one location for a long period of time will transform into ice. What is crazy about glaciers is that they actually move and flow like a slow river. Small glaciers maybe the size of a football field while others can be miles long. Glaciers that melt will increase water flow, creating streams and valleys. They can also create glacial lakes, mountain tsunamis, and flash floods. As temperatures increase, sea levels rise and the land falls into the sea. If glaciers melt, sea levels significantly rise. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, if all of the glaciers melt, the sea level will rise by half a meter.

The future

Already this year, the northernmost parts of the world have suffered from the rise in temperatures and carbon dioxide. The Arctic has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the planet and the summer heat has hit record levels. June has been the hottest ever recorded and the remainder of the summer is predicted to continue this way. Alaska, Greenland, Siberia, and Canada have all seen rising temperatures, melting ice and usually hot summers. If the largest ice sheets in the world begin to melt in Greenland and Antartica, we can expect to see major changes to our coastlines. These hold enough water to flood coastal cities and virtually wipe them out. If you look at Louisiana’s coastline, you’ll see the coasts are sinking about three feet a century. National Geographic estimates over 100 million people across the world like within three feet of sea level. These people could all feel the effects of rising sea levels. New York, Tokyo, Jakarta, Bangkok, and Shanghai are all at risk. Time will tell if we can make the major changes we need to in order to protect our waterways, shoreline and climate.