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NASA images show how enormous Iceland glacier has vanished over three decades

Mirror logo Mirror 13/08/2019 Amber Hicks
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New NASA photos show how enormous Iceland glacier Okjökull has vanished over the last three decades because of soaring temperatures.

The shocking satellite images reveal how the "iconic" glacier is almost gone, despite once measuring 38 square kilometers.

Images taken in 1986 show it as a solid-white patch, just north of the snow-filled crater. Snow is also visible around the glacier’s edges.

But in a image captured this month, only a spattering of thin ice patches remain.

a close up of an animal: It was officially 'declared dead' in 2014 © Copyright (c) 2019 Shutterstock. No use without permission. It was officially 'declared dead' in 2014 It melted away throughout the 20th century and was 'declared dead' in 2014.

US satellites have tracked the glacier's decline over the past three decades.

A geological map from 1901 estimated Okjökull spanned an area of about 38 square kilometers (15 square miles).

In 1978, aerial photography showed the glacier was 3 square kilometers.

a piece of cake on a rock: A satellite image showing the Okjokull Glacier on September 7, 1986 © NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX A satellite image showing the Okjokull Glacier on September 7, 1986

Today, less than 1 square kilometer remains, reports Earth Observatory.

Experts from NASA say the heatwave that hit Europe this year is making the problem of melting in the region much worse.

The space agency said in a written statement: "Notice the areas of blue meltwater, which are likely associated with a mass of warm air that hit Iceland as it moved from mainland Europe to Greenland in late July."

The glacier’s demise is not just a matter of shrinking area, researchers have warned.

Glaciers form from snow that becomes compacted into ice over time. The ice then creeps downslope under its own weight, helped along by gravity.

a close up of a rock: The Okjokull lost its glacier status in 2014 after it significantly melted down to rising temperatures © NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX The Okjokull lost its glacier status in 2014 after it significantly melted down to rising temperatures

Okjökull has thinned so much, however, that it no longer has enough mass to flow.

NASA Earth tweeted: "On August 18, 2019, scientists will be among those who gather for a memorial atop Ok volcano in west-central Iceland.

"The deceased being remembered is Okjökull—a once-iconic glacier that was declared dead in 2014."

Oddur Sigurðsson, a geologist in the Icelandic Meteorological Office, and others are set to hike to the summit and leave a metal memorial in its place.

It once spanned an area of about 38 square kilometers © Copyright (c) 2019 Shutterstock. No use without permission. It once spanned an area of about 38 square kilometers

Okjökull, also called Ok (jökull is Icelandic for “glacier”), was part of the Langjökull group—one of Iceland’s eight regional groupings of glaciers.

Ice covers about 10 percent of the island, making it an integral part of the landscape.

Loss of glacial ice has wide-ranging effects, with the potential to impact water resources, infrastructure, and even the rising of the land as it rebounds under a lighter load of ice.

Scientists have noted that glaciers have disappeared from Iceland before, although none as ceremoniously as Okjökull.

Explore the issues faced by the UK’s most vulnerable children and young people this summer and discover what you can do to help.​​

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