Monday, October 12, 2009

Iceland's vanishing glaciers

Zoe Robert in the Iceland Review Online: Drip, crack, splash and clack are the sounds of Europe’s largest glacier melting. The sound of Vatnajökull glacier breaking into pieces, its icebergs plunging into its underlying lagoon, Jökulsárlón. The busloads of tourists that pose in front of the lagoon’s pristine waters may not realize that they are watching a glacial graveyard.

This captivating scene is among the most evident signs of global warming in Iceland. Glaciologist Helgi Björnsson says that if predictions are correct, the country’s glaciers will be gone in 200 years. The consequence: the world’s most water-rich country will become reliant upon rain for fresh water. Smaller glaciers like Snaefellsjökull, the scene of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, could disappear before mid-century.

…The global shrinking of the ice cap will, however, bring new opportunities to Iceland and the Arctic region, most notably in the opening up of access to rich natural resources in the high north. A recent survey published by Science magazine reveals that the region could contain close to a third of the world’s gas reserves and around 13 percent of the world’s untapped oil. Maritime traffic along an emerging ice-free shipping lane, connecting the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans, is also expected to bring economic gain in the coming decades.

…Like its people, Iceland has already begun to adapt to a changing climate. “Iceland’s environment has reacted quickly to this warming,” Halldór Björnsson, chairman of the scientific committee on climate change, told daily Morgunbladid in August upon the release of the report “Global Climate Change and its Impact on Iceland.” “Iceland will look very different with a changed biosphere by the mid-21st century and even more so by the end of this century,” Björnsson said….

The sooty edge of Solmenajokull, one of Iceland's receding glaciers, shot by Catherine Noren, the official photographer of Carbon Based

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