Lake Forms on Top of West Iceland Glacier Skip to content

Lake Forms on Top of West Iceland Glacier

A lake has formed in the top crater of the glacier Ok in west Iceland due to climate change, as expeditioners on behalf of the Natural History Museum of Kópavogur confirmed yesterday. The lake is a few hectares in size and 3-4.5 meters deep.

Vatnajökull glacier. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

“It is a pure and simple consequence of global warming,” director of the Natural History Museum of Kópavogur Hilmar J. Malmquist told Morgunbladid. He was traveling with Haraldur Rafn Ingvarsson, Stefán Már Stefánsson, Thóra Hrafnsdóttir and Finnur Ingimarsson.

They were examining the situation of the lake, which has formed in the past few years due to glacier melt. They took samples from the water to chemically analyze it. They also collected algae to determine which species have settled in the water.

Malmquist discovered the lake when he was hiking with his wife in the summer of 2007. “No one had mentioned the lake and it was presumably the first time that someone saw it.” He said it is important to find a name for the lake as soon as possible.

“One proposal is Kringluvatn [“Circle Lake”] in the honor of Snorri Sturluson and it is also shaped like a circle,” Malmquist said. “But it is up to the inhabitants of Borgarfjördur to find a good name for the lake.”

Snorri Sturluson is the author of the medieval manuscript Heimskringla and he lived at Reykholt in Borgarfjördur, where Ok is located.

Geologist Oddur Sigurdsson said Iceland’s glaciers are retreating at a record speed. “In the past 15 years the glaciers here have retreated faster than ever before in the history that we know of. Ok is retreating especially fast and today it is actually doubtful that it can be defined as a glacier.”

Sigurdsson added that Icelandic glaciers shrunk significantly in the 20th century. “The Little Ice Age stretched all the way from the Age of Sturlungs to the beginning of the 1900s, which is when the climate started warming up and Icelandic glaciers began shrinking.”

“But the past 15 years have been the worst. The glaciers here shrink by 0.3-0.4 percent every year. Each glacier, which measures 1,000 square kilometers, shrinks by four square kilometers per year and Vatnajökull shrinks by 30-40 square kilometers,” Sigurdsson stated.

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