From Iceland — Global Warming Could Cause Breiðamerkur Glacier To Split In Two

Global Warming Could Cause Breiðamerkur Glacier To Split In Two

Published April 30, 2020

Photo by
SOUTHEASTERN NATURAL HISTORY AGENCY / SNÆVARR GUÐMUNDSSON

A new ridge of land is becoming exposed in the Breiðamerkur glacier as ice thins due to global warming. Geologists from the Southeastern Iceland Nature Agency believe that the ridge will eventually divide the glacier into two streams, Vísir reports.

Rising temperatures are causing ice to thin in certain points in the Breiðamerkur glacier, exposing ridges of rock. The newly exposed land forms a “cut” in the glacier that can grow to split a section of ice off, forming a smaller separate glacier. The newest “cut” runs parallel to Mávabyggðarrand, about 3-4 kilometres from the glacier’s edge. Snævarr Guðmundsson, a geologist from the Southeastern Iceland Nature Agency, inspected the ridge last week and estimates that it is around 1.1 kilometres long and 150 metres wide.

The cut is thought to have been forming for three or four years. Snævarr told Vísir reporters that it can first be spotted in aerial photographs taken in 2016. Eventually the ridge may grow to divide the glacier into two glacial streams. It is hard to accurately predict when this split will occur; it could be in a couple of decades time or a in a century. Snaevar’s best guess is that it will happen after at least 50 years. “But when you predict something, it never happens”, he warns.

Aron Franklín Jónsson, the owner of a local glacier guide company, told Vísir that he’d first noticed the new split last week. Using a drone, he discovered that what had appeared to be a small section of exposed rock was in fact a huge ridge. A small glacier lagoon has formed to one side of the ridge and he believes that there may be an ice cave nearby. Aron and his family have decided to name the new strip of land Krakkakamb.

The Breiðamerkur Glacier is a popular tourist hotspot in southeastern Iceland. Icebergs break off the glacier, flowing into the Jökulsárlón lagoon and slowly moving towards the sea until they eventually come to decorate the famous Diamond Beach nearby.

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