German president Frank-Walter Steinmeir accompanied Icelandic president Guðni Th. Jóhannesson on a visit to the Sólheimajökull glacier in South Iceland, where children and teens attending the Hvolsskóli school in the town of Hvolsvöllur have been taking regular measurements of the glacier’s retreat since 2010. RÚV reports that the students shared their most recent, and rather surprising data with the two presidents during the visit, which was meant to highlight climate change issues for the German public.
The presidential visit to the glacier took place during the Frank-Walter’s official visit to Iceland, and began at a sign that the Hvolsskóli students had erected as a place-marker nine years ago. According to students Vala Saskia Einarsdóttir and Sigurpáll Jónas Sigurðarsson, “[t]he glacier has retreated 379m [1,243ft] since 2010 and it is now 697m [2,286ft] from our sign. When we started, it was 318m [1,043ft away from the sign], so this is an enormous recession.”
There was also no lagoon visible on the glacier site when the students started measuring its retreat in 2010. Today, the lagoon in front of the glacier tongue is enormous, and it gets bigger and bigger every year. Vala and Sigurpáll said that when they started working on the project four years ago, they didn’t realise the magnitude of the situation, nor how important the measurements that they and their fellow students were taking would prove to be. “But today, I think we’re going to look back and realize how remarkable this was and how lucky we are to get to take part in this, to see what is happening around our planet, because it’s just awful.”
Frank-Walter was accompanied by 20 members of the German press on his visit to the glacier and wanted to use the visit as a way of creating awareness about climate change issues among his countrymen. “We who are visitors from abroad can see this well, but Icelanders know these changes from personal experience. That’s why they move through nature with consideration and respect and are determined to fight climate change,” he stated.