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Iceland unveils memorial for melted glacier

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Icelandic officials and environmental activists on Sunday unveiled a memorial plaque, read poems and held a moment of silence to say an official goodbye to the country’s first glacier recognized by the country as disappearing due to climate change.

Scientists declared in 2014 the Okjokull ice sheet in west Iceland no longer fulfilled the criteria to be considered a glacier after it progressively melted throughout the 20th century.

About 100 people made the two-hour hike up a volcano to attend the unique ceremony.

Icelandic geologist Oddur Sigurðsson, who had declared the ice mass “extinct,” brought a death certificate. Children set down a plaque to the glacier, called “Ok,” to signify its loss of ice.

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A girl holding a sign at the Iceland ceremony Sunday. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

“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,” the inscription on the plaque, written by Icelandic author Andri Snaer Magnason, read.

“We know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it,” the inscription added, signaling a warning to future generations.

The plaque also noted the level of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

NASA satellite images from 1986 showed Okjokull as a solid white patch of ice. Another image taken Aug. 1, 2019, showed barely any ice.

The glacier used to stretch six square miles, Sigurdsson said. Less than 1 square miles remained.

“We see the consequences of the climate crisis,” Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said. “We have no time to lose.”

The Okjokull glacier on Sept. 14, 1986, left, and what remained on Aug. 1, 2019. (NASA via AP)

Iceland has been known for its stunning glacier landscapes, which have been featured in literature and movies.

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Okjokull was the first of Iceland’s glaciers recognized as extinct. All of its ice masses are expected to be gone within 200 years, Sigurdsson said.

Jakobsdottir said she will make climate change a priority during her upcoming meeting with Nordic leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Reykjavik on Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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