Skip to content

Funeral For An Icelandic Glacier

August 20, 2019

By Paul Homewood

One of the sillier climate stories doing the rounds this week is the “funeral of an Icelandic glacier”.

It is remarkable how widely it has been reported, testament to a highly organised effort to publicise it throughout the world, complete with silly “Climate Emergency” placards:


Mourners have gathered in Iceland to commemorate the loss of Okjokull, which has died at the age of about 700.

The glacier was officially declared dead in 2014 when it was no longer thick enough to move.

What once was glacier has been reduced to a small patch of ice atop a volcano.

Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, Environment Minister Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson and former Irish President Mary Robinson attended the ceremony.

After opening remarks by Ms Jakobsdottir, mourners walked up the volcano northeast of the capital Reykjavik to lay a plaque which carries a letter to the future.

"Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as glacier," it reads.

"In the next 200 years all our main glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done.

"Only you know if we did it."

The dedication, written by Icelandic author Andri Snaer Magnason, ends with the date of the ceremony and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air globally – 415 parts per million (ppm). 



If they had bothered to check with proper glaciologists, they would have known that Icelandic glaciers expended massively during the Little Ice Age, reaching their Holocene maxima then.

By contrast, many present-day glaciers did not even exist 5000 years ago:



Iceland was heavily glaciated at the Last Glacial Maximum – glaciers extended towards the shelf break. Ice thickness reached 1,500±500 m. The rapid deglaciation, starting 17.5–15.4 cal. kyr BP, was controlled by rising global sea level. The marine part of the ice sheet collapsed 15.4–14.6 cal. kyr BP and glaciers retreated inside the present coastline. In Younger Dryas, 12.6–12.0 cal. kyr BP, the ice sheet readvanced and terminated near the present coastline. After 11.2 cal. kyr BP the ice sheet retreated rapidly and relative sea level fell towards and eventually below present sea level at 10.7 cal. kyr BP. At 8.7 cal. kyr BP glaciers terminated proximal to their present margins. During the mid-Holocene climate optimum some of the present-day ice caps were probably absent. Ice caps expanded after 6.0–5.0 cal. kyr BP, and most glaciers reached their Holocene maxima during the Little Ice Age (AD 1300–1900).

HH Lamb, in his own inimitable way, described just how bitterly cold it was during the Little Ice Age:


In Iceland the old Norse society and its economy suffered a severe decline which set in first about AD 1200 and could be said to have continued over almost six centuries. The population of the country fell from about 77500, as indicated by the tax records in 1095, to around 72000 in 1311. By 1703 it was nearly down to 50000, and after some severe years of ice and volcanic eruptions in the 1780’s it was only about 38000. The people’s average stature also seems to have declined, much as in Greenland, from 5ft 8in to 5ft 6in from the 10th to the 18thC.

It is clear from the surviving records that years when the Arctic sea ice was close to the Iceland coast for long months (usually between January and August) played a big part in this. In such years, the spring and summer were so cold that there was little hay and thousands of sheep died. The shellfish of the seashore were also destroyed by the ice. Gradually all attempts at grain growing were given up. The glaciers were advancing.

The times of most ice and coldest climate in Iceland seem to have started suddenly in 1197-8 and 1203, and reached culminating phases around 1300, from about 1580 to 1700, especially the 1690’s, and again in the late 18th and 19thC.

HH Lamb: Climate, History and the Modern World – page 189

Meanwhile, temperatures in the region have been barely higher in the last decade or two than they were 80 years ago:




When the AMO turns cold in the next few years, Iceland will have to endure the same bitter cold which they named the Sea Ice Years in the 1960s and 70s, when the country suffered dreadfully.

The BBC article finishes with this statement from Oddur Sigurdsson, a glaciologist at the Iceland Met Office:

"150 years ago no Icelander would have bothered the least to see all the glaciers disappear," he said, as they advanced over farmlands and flooded whole areas with melt waters and streams. "But since then, while the glaciers were retreating, they are looked at as a beautiful thing, which they definitely are.

"The oldest Icelandic glaciers contain the entire history of the Icelandic nation," he added. "We need to retrieve that history before they disappear."


Not only does he evidently not understand Icelandic history, but he seems to care more about “glaciers’ beauty”, than he does about the livelihoods and interests of Icelanders who have to live alongside them.

One thing is for certain – if those glaciers began advancing again, Iceland will be very, very sorry indeed. I wonder where the prats holding CLIMATE EMERGENCY placards will be then?

  1. Mike R permalink
    August 20, 2019 11:55 am

    They look remarkably well wrapped up, considering it’s supposed to be so warm nowadays!

  2. Jackington permalink
    August 20, 2019 12:05 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me how you manage to dig out the appropriate historical facts to show up how ignorant and dangerous these propagandists are.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 20, 2019 1:38 pm

      With all the wonderful information to hand courtesy of the internet I could say I am amazed at how often they get it wrong were it not for them doing it deliberately to hide the truth.

    • August 20, 2019 3:34 pm

      What really amazes me, are the number of ignorant protesters willing to waste their time, energy, and empathy, on such a whimsical crusade, when all of this fountain of historical fact is so readily available for anyone wishing to do a little research.

      • GEORGE L permalink
        August 20, 2019 3:58 pm

        Young people have been very much indoctrinated from Kindergarten on up. I remember my son coming home from school after seeing Al Gore’s movie. He saw it as very convincing. Although he has come to be questionable.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        August 20, 2019 5:21 pm

        George, did the teacher inform your son’s class of the High Court’s mandated comments before he showed the film?

  3. August 20, 2019 12:06 pm

    It seems as though they are just not happy, with or without glaciers. The result of too little knowledge and too much time on their hands.

    • Saighdear permalink
      August 20, 2019 2:05 pm

      Isn’t that just the problem with human kind these days, …. looking for a unique or otherwise, Cause to pin their names to?

      • August 21, 2019 11:24 am

        Not learning during your teen years that there are things bigger than yourself?

  4. calnorth permalink
    August 20, 2019 12:15 pm

    Do we know exactly who these sour pusses are? Who is behind them? Certainly they clutter the place with their metal memorial junk…

  5. dearieme permalink
    August 20, 2019 12:21 pm

    “The times of … coldest climate in Iceland seem to have … reached culminating phases … from about 1580 to 1700, especially the 1690’s.

    In Scotland the 1690s were known as “King William’s ill years”. They brought dearth and famine.

  6. Pancho Plail permalink
    August 20, 2019 12:41 pm

    The plaque will be a testament to the stupidity of people who think CO2 is the only thing that affects the climate.

    • Russ Wood permalink
      August 20, 2019 5:10 pm

      The article DID mention ‘volcano’ didn’t it?

  7. Broadlands permalink
    August 20, 2019 1:19 pm

    One thing is for certain – If they reduce CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 the cumulative amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will become higher each year until the zero goal is attained. It could reach 500 ppm. There is no way around this. That’s where these activists will be….still holding their placards….”Emergency!”

    • Jon Scott permalink
      August 20, 2019 8:45 pm

      Bring it on. The veg we eat evolved when Atm CO2 was around 4-5 times what it is today. There are either a LOT of very stupid and or ignorant people in the West OR there are A LOT of liars on the payroll

  8. JerryC permalink
    August 20, 2019 2:03 pm

    Alternate Headline: Primitive, Animistic Religion Holds Sparsely Attended Ceremony.

  9. Saighdear permalink
    August 20, 2019 2:08 pm

    Huh, no more daf han that Dr so;n’so from a london Uni crying on abouthe other pillocks recording the breakdown of an IceArch and nearly getting killed – “because of Global warming” -where did SHE get that PhD from ?

    • August 20, 2019 4:26 pm

      Quite clearly the Titanic didn’t hit an iceberg because glaciers didn’t start calving until after global warming.began in 1950 (according t the BBC and Dr Alrmist)

    • August 20, 2019 4:28 pm

      Quite clearly the Titanic didn’t hit an iceberg because glaciers didn’t start calving until after global warming.began in 1950 (according to the BBC and Dr Alrmist)

      • Saighdear permalink
        August 20, 2019 4:57 pm

        Oh? … or Hoh!! Now THAT would be something else. Woulda taka de Capio offa it !! 😉

  10. George L permalink
    August 20, 2019 2:32 pm

    This is another Keystone Cops “climate change” media. Woo Woo Woo let’s rush there.
    Meanwhile here in the states they had to take down the signs of glaciers disappearing:
    Glacier National Park Glaciers

  11. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 20, 2019 2:46 pm

    A pointless political climate change propaganda stunt.

    The BBC even mentioned it had probably only been there 700 years – so was it our fault it wasn’t there before 700 years ago, our fault it formed in the first place…………

    It was never much of a glacier anyway, just a big ice/snow patch, in a crater, in a country with geothermal warmth coming and going all over the place.

    “Most of Iceland’s glaciers have been in general retreat since reaching their Little Ice Age (LIA) maxima, between AD 1780 and 1900 (Thórarinsson 1943; Guðmundsson 1997; Bradwell et al. 2006; Geirsdóttir et al. 2009). ”

    So any small ‘glaciers’ are going to reach the end of their existence sooner rather than later.

    “Prior to this, from the time of settlement (c. AD 870) to the 13th century, most of Iceland’s glaciers were smaller than, or similar in size to, today (Guðmundsson 1997; Kirkbride & Dugmore 2008; Geirsdóttir et al. 2009).”

    “The intervening period between c. AD 1300 and 1700 is not well documented in the historical annals and little glaciological information exists, but most glaciers in Iceland are thought to have been larger than at the present-day; many underwent advances but remained smaller than during the height of the LIA (AD 1850–1900) (Thórarinsson 1943; Björnsson & Pálsson 2008).”

    Discussion of another particular glacier.

    “……… the retreat of the Falljökull ice front between c. 1934 and 1945 was unusually rapid when compared with the measurement record (since 1957) (Fig. 3). A total glacier recession distance of 310 m occurred in 11 years – an average of 28 m a-1. By comparison, the period of annual moraine formation from 1990 to 2004 resulted in ~210 m of ice-front retreat in 15 years – an average of 14 m a-1. This shows that the two annual-moraine-forming periods of ice-front retreat are comparable in style but not in magnitude; the 1935–1945 period experienced stronger glacier recession, with average ice-front retreat rates twice as high as those between 1990 and 2004.”

    Mean summer air temperature (MSAT) and periods of annual moraine formation at Virkisjökull–Falljökull, hardly alarming and likely cyclic.

    The last decade have seen greater retreat rates than the 1934/45 period – but given previous variations, why is this alarming?

    • Derek permalink
      August 20, 2019 2:57 pm

      You’re right that they said it had only been there 700 years ago. What they didn’t do (as expected) was then to draw the conclusion that something was different). They left that hanging – which in my view was the intention, enabling them to give the message it is the warming wot dun it….

  12. chaswarnertoo permalink
    August 20, 2019 2:58 pm

    700 years old? So not here before then? SHHHHHHHHHH!

    • bobn permalink
      August 20, 2019 3:34 pm

      Yep. Thats the elephant rampaging through their story. ‘ the loss of Okjokull, which has died at the age of about 700.’ So it was also non-existant 800yrs ago, when it was warm and when CO2 was below 350ppm. So CO2, by their own admission, cannot be a factor in the warming and retreat of this glacier since it warmed and disappeared in the past with low CO2.

      • Phoenix44 permalink
        August 21, 2019 9:06 am

        Well CO2 could be, it’s just not necessary as a cause. The previous warming was entirely natural so this warming could be – but not necessarily.

  13. Athelstan. permalink
    August 20, 2019 3:12 pm

    I would comment on this but the beeb are bunging up my head with NFU loonies harping on abaht AGW in the UK and altering the farming landscape or summat, from one BS story (snow patch disappearance) to another……………can you see what they’re doing here, the constant blitz of propaganda, almost as if they are planning a new tax grab.

    NEW tax grab!? Nay! and more rules coming this way – wait for the DEC COP the UN announcing how you’re all going to be made to PAY MORE and MORE!!

    I’m predicting – again.

  14. Subseaeng permalink
    August 20, 2019 3:37 pm

    As well as this story did you also see on the BBC news today at lunch the story of the two kayakers who were almost overwhelmed after an ice bridge on a berg collapsed and covered them with shrapnel and water. Of course all due to climate change and with nobody to tell the BBC how this is all normal.

  15. Saighdear permalink
    August 20, 2019 4:12 pm

    Och Mannnn…. “Oma”Merkel is visiting the dead galcier too this now. Of course the Germans seem to have more than just swallowed the whole Green slime.
    Was trying to understand a TV Prog , thisafternoon, from ’89 onwards – fall of the Wall – Germany became
    more colourful – not just Black Gold but Red-Green too – so is that when the whole Movement really got going in Europe?

  16. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    August 20, 2019 4:49 pm

    A real “climate catastrophe”:
    There is an interesting map here:

    This shows the southwestern edge (across British Columbia and Washington State) of the Cordilleran (mountain-based) ice sheet with a red dot for the location of Vancouver, BC.
    We live in the brown area near the letter ‘t’ of tundra.

    Had we lived here back then, I would have declared a “climate catastrophe” and moved to Texas.

  17. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 20, 2019 5:21 pm

    O/T Recent UK grid blackout: HA ha ha ha. Saw this coming a mile down the tracks.

    Yep, according to Ch5 news, climate change done it!

    They firmly blamed a lightning strike causing the trip, then had some sort of eco-warrior looking supposed grid expert spouting that with these sort of extreme events (a lightning strike is now extreme weather?) we will have to invest more in grid resilience or this will become a more frequent problem. Switch back to the reporter, who then said customers will have to pay an extra £10 each per station per year to make them resilient to climate change.

    What can you say?

    • Athelstan. permalink
      August 20, 2019 5:33 pm

      “What can you say?”

      climate bollocks, and more ruinables = total bollocks.

  18. Broadlands permalink
    August 20, 2019 5:23 pm

    From the Smithsonian’s “World Weather Records” the mean annual temperature at Stykkisholmur, Iceland for the decade of the 1930s was 4.7°C. The current annual “normals” average 3.5°C… 1.2°C lower.

  19. Joe Public permalink
    August 20, 2019 6:50 pm

    “A glacier was still in place in Scotland within the past 400 years – 11,000 years later than previously thought – it has been suggested.”

  20. Jon Scott permalink
    August 20, 2019 8:41 pm

    “former Irish President Mary Robinson attended the ceremony”!!! What the hell is she doing there??? How did she get there I wonder I wonder? If this wasn’t so serious ( the shear effrontery of these disgusting people) it would be funny. Glad handing worthless Z Class celebrities and ex politicians chasing free lunch and the irony no doubt was lost on her…. or did she like the Virgin of Stockholm go in a hydrocarbon derived plastic boat? Sso we begin to see a pattern What will be the next level of delusional one-upmanship? I am waiting for a mass suicide….. although given this lot’s track record for meaningless virtue signaling par excellence I think it will be just wailing and gnashing of teeth. The shear pathetic-ness of this all. AND politicians wasting tax payer money on their religious symbols. They REALLY want there to be a problem! These people are not right in the head with their doomsdaycult. NOT ONE of them even bothers to research the physics or geological history because as they prove time and time again, this is a RELIGEON!

  21. August 20, 2019 9:11 pm

    Thanks Paul so much for that. Was looking to see how old the glacier was. Assumed that it wasn’t there during MWP, then reformed and advanced from 14th Century forward.

    Also – anyone know about the CA Sierra glaciers. I’ve seen bits suggesting that all of CA glaciers disappeared during the MWP – then as elsewhere, reformed and advanced during LIA?

    Would love to have something to hang onto.

  22. 2hmp permalink
    August 21, 2019 7:40 am

    Politicians are never frightened by facts; they simply use them for their own purposes

  23. Leslie Johnson permalink
    August 21, 2019 9:04 am

    For what it is worth, I have an Icelander in my Twitter feed, claiming he was taught in school, that the glacier disappeared in 1960.

  24. Tim Spence permalink
    August 21, 2019 12:23 pm

    First snows in the Pyrenees last night, unusually early this year, normally late September and the first snows on Ternerife’s Teide volcano are usually mid October, I bet they’ll be early this year.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      August 21, 2019 1:50 pm

      Worth booking Baquiera Beret, then?

  25. sixlittlerabbits permalink
    August 21, 2019 2:56 pm

    Thanks for this great post, Paul. Another favorite blogger deals with the same idiocy:

  26. Svend Ferdinandsen permalink
    August 21, 2019 8:45 pm

    Some think it is a tragedy, but what if the iceland glaciers were increasing in size. Would that be better?

  27. August 22, 2019 6:27 am

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: