From Tue Oct 24 21:04:16 2000
Date: Mon, 23 Oct 2000 22:21:36 -0500 (CDT)
From: Mark Graffis <>
Subject: Icelandic glacier in rapid breakup
Article: 107542
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Icelandic glacier in rapid breakup

UPI, 22 October 2000

A British newspaper reported Sunday new research shows Europe's biggest glacier is about to disintegrate.

The Observer report—based on an interview with David Evans, of Glasgow University, who has spent decades studying the glacier—says the mighty Breidamerkurjökull in southern Iceland is breaking apart. Evans said that the glacier is beginning to disintegrate and in the next few years will collapse into the north Atlantic.

According to the Observer, the predicted imminent loss of the huge ice river demonstrates the impact of global warming on the northern hemisphere.

The newspaper quotes Evans saying: The glacier has been shrinking for most of the twentieth century ... However, it is clear it is now approaching the point where a great mass of it will soon break up, and pour down to the sea.

The Breidamerkurjökull destruction reportedly also threatens a widely-admired Icelandic spot for tour boats. Thousands of visitors yearly take boat trips around icebergs which routinely split off from the glacier and float in the lake at its base. But the newspaper reports Evans saying recent research now shows silt and sediment—which have already started to pour from the melting glacier—are likely to fill the lake.

He says when the glacier finally breaks apart, the lake beneath, Jökulsarlon, will probably fill up with sediment.

According to specialists, the glacier Breidamerkurjökull is the key glacier emerging from the huge Vatnajökull ice sheet which lies across much of southern Iceland.

Glasgow University surveyors originally arrived at Breidamerkurjökull in 1965 to make maps of the glacier and compare them against U.S. Army measurements from 1945.

Evans says the 1965 readings showed the glacier had slipped back from the sea by a couple of miles.

In 1998, a new Glasgow University measurement using global positioning satellite equipment and other high-precision devices, showed rapid melting. And now Evans tells the Observer that during the past two years researchers Yvonne Finlayson and Mike Shand, from the university's geography department, have collected information for a new detailed topographic map of the region. Those results show the great river of ice has dwindled dramatically over the past 30 years—a total of five miles from the sea.

According to the news report, the Glasgow team, working with Loughborough University researchers led by David Twigg, says a huge depression has formed over the glacier's frozen heart. This hole rests over the portion of the inland fjord still covered by ice.

Evans told the Observer: Effectively, the glacier is breaking up around that hole and is slipping into the fjord ... It is beginning to disintegrate and in the next few years will collapse into the water.

Evans also notes that during the 1600s, the coastal land around Breidamerkurjökull was ice-free and farmed quite intensively by local people. But he said in the early decades of the 1700s, the climate grew colder and giant tongues of ice emerged from the Vatnajökull sheet, including the Breidamerkurjökull glacier.

He says This period is known as the Little Ice Age and it lasted almost 200 years... That mini-ice age is over now, and the climate has been getting warmer for the past 100 years. Hence the shrinking and disintegration of the glacier.

In late August of this year, the World Wide Fund for Nature said in a report that global warming could wipe out many species of plants and animals by the end of the 21st century, The fund report described a devastating picture of the ability of species from Arctic polar bears and walruses to New England sugar maple trees to survive unless they can migrate quickly or adapt to their new environments. The assumption for the report was that by 2100, carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere will be double what they were at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

That report said regions including parts of Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Iceland and Kyrgyzstan, could lose more than half of their natural habitat.