The plaque that will be placed in Iceland on August 18. The text was written by bestselling Icelandic author Andri Snær Magnason and includes notation of 2019 CO2 levels. (Courtesy Rice University)

Researchers to hold memorial to glacier loss in Iceland


Eye on the Arctic features stories and newsmakers from across the North

Iceland’s Okjökull glacier, or should we say former glacier, will be getting a memorial service this month when a delegation makes the trek to the former site to install a memorial plaque.

The service will take place on August 18 and will include Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer, the two anthropology professors from Houston Texas’ Rice University who instigated the project. They’ll be joined by Icelandic geologist Oddur Sigurðsson, the glaciologist who first declared Okjökull dead in 2014, as well as members of the Icelandic Hiking Society and the general public.

Invitations have also been extended to Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and the Minister of the Environment Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson.

The ceremony for the glacier, called Ok for short, will take place at its former location in western Icelandic municipality of Borgarbyggð.

“As we go around the world we can see memorials to all sorts of things that humans have done,” said Howe in a telephone interview with Eye on the Arctic. “We’re both mourning the fact that it has expired and is no longer a glacier but we also want to draw attention to the fact that this is something that humans have done.”

Glaciers receding around the world

Climate change is affecting glaciers around the world.

In Canada, Arctic glaciers are shrinking at an alarming rate and show no signs of regeneration. On Ellesmere Island, the most northern region of the country, research shows that between 1999 and 2015, over 75 per cent of glaciers lost area with none observed to be increasing. In all, over 1700 square kilometres of ice was lost, or a change in area of six per cent.

Iceland has over 400 glaciers and is experiencing a similar phenomenon.

“Almost all of Iceland‘s glaciers are receding, and scientists predict that they may largely vanish in the next 100-200 years,” says the website of Iceland’s Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources. 

The Okjökull glacier site in Borgarfjörður, Iceland. (Courtesy Rice University)

The text on the plaque was written by bestselling Icelandic author Andri Snær Magnason.

“The melting of the glaciers is an issue all future generations will have to deal with and adapt to,” Magnason said in a blog post on his website discussing the project. “As the glaciers are not vanishing and becoming nothing, they are becoming a rising ocean that will come splashing at the city gates of the world.”

The text ends with the CO2 levels parts per million for August 2019.

“It’s the greatest amount of carbon dioxide that we’ve had in our atmosphere for three million years, and we passed this threshold in spring of this year ” said Howe.  “As future people look upon this memorial marker, undoubtedly that number will be higher. They’ll be able to look back and ask the question to our generation: ‘What did they do?'”

Feature Interview

(Courtesy Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer)

For more on Okjökull glacier, the power of commemoration and the importance of creating a global community around climate change, listen to Eye on the Arctic‘s conversation with Rice University’s Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer:

The idea for the memorial project came as Howe and Boyer wound up work on their 2018 documentary film about the glacier called “Not Ok.”

They also said living and working in Texas made them think about how decisions made in southern capitals have consequences in northern regions that most people never see. 

“There’s a huge influence here of the oil industry and the fossil fuel industry,” Howe said.  “We want to provide a counterpoint to that.”

Howe and Boyer say the climate crisis is daunting but that the fact that the memorial project has gotten coverage everywhere from ‘Tennessee to Vietnam’ has them optimistic.

“That resonance alone is a sign of hope,” says Boyer. “It’s a sign that as a global community, we understand that we have to act as a species, not as individual nations at cross-purposes if we want to solve this problem.”

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Warming Arctic shrinking Canadian glaciers at alarming rate says study, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Reindeer struggling to stay cool as unusual heat hits northern Finland, Yle News

Greenland: Tall ice cliffs are slumping and may trigger rapid sea-level rise, study finds, CBC News

Iceland: Iceland talks Arctic, Trump’s ditching of climate accord, with U.S. Secretary of State, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Emissions dropping in EU, but not in Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Arctic summer 2019: record heat, dramatic ice loss and raging wildfires, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden’s glaciers are melting away, Radio Sweden

United States: Melting glaciers are triggering the world’s biggest tsunamis, CBC News


Categories: Environment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.


One comment on “Researchers to hold memorial to glacier loss in Iceland
  1. Avatar Jose Padilla says:

    An ancient book says that “… the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22) There is still hope that earth and heavens will be renewed, and this time it will be forever. This event will certainly come to pass.