Twelve immense blocks of ice, harvested as free-floating icebergs from a fjord outside Nuuk, Greenland, were arranged in clock formation at the Place du Panthéon, where they melted away from 3 to 12 December 2015, during COP21.
Ice weight: 80 tonnes
Origin: Nuup Kangerlua fjord outside Nuuk, Greenland
Transport: Organised by Group Greenland / Greenland Glacier Ice, the ice was collected by divers and dockworkers from the Royal Arctic Line and then transported in six refrigerated containers from Nuuk to Aalborg, Denmark by container ship and to Paris by truck.
Carbon footprint: 30 tonnes CO2e. A PDF with further details is available for download in the press section below.
Ice Watch is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and realised in collaboration with Julie’s Bicycle.
Ice Watch is part of the initiative Artists4ParisClimate2015.
Olafur Eliasson, b. 1967:
Eliasson’s work encompasses photography, film, sculpture, installation, and architecture. Major exhibitions and public projects include The weather project at Tate Modern, London (2003), which was seen by more than 2 million visitors; The New York City Waterfalls, commissioned by Public Art Fund, New York (2008); and Contact at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2014). Established in 1995, his Berlin studio today numbers about 90 craftsmen, architects, and art historians.
Minik Thorleif Rosing, b. 1957:
Professor of geology at the Natural History Museum of Denmark at Copenhagen University, Rosing has played an important role in the geological exploration of Greenland. His research lead to the dating of the origin of life on Earth to several hundred million years earlier than previously thought.
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: public health, environment, education, government innovation and the arts. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2014, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $462 million, and it has a history of supporting creative and innovative public art. In 2014 alone, Bloomberg Philanthropies supported artist Tobias Rehberger’s Dazzle Ship in London as part of 14-18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, and Liverpool Biennial; We the People, Dahn Vo’s multi-site exhibition in New York City, organized by Public Art Fund; and Doug and Mike Starn’s Big Bambú installation in Jerusalem. This year it launched the Public Art Challenge, encouraging temporary public works of art in cities across the U.S.
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Julie’s Bicycle is a London based global charity bridging the gap between environmental sustainability and the creative industries. Founded in 2007, its vision is a progressive, efficient and sustainable creative community. It works with over 1,000 arts organisations across the UK and internationally to measure, manage and reduce environmental impacts. Over the past two years, the charity has helped the arts save 16,784 tonnes of C02 emissions, equivalent to over £3 million. For more information go to www.juliesbicycle.com.
There are two different kinds of ice near the earth’s poles:
Sea ice forms in the winter, when the ocean freezes over. The ice cover on the polar ocean comes and goes with the passing of the seasons. This does not influence sea level, since the same amount of water remains, whether as ice or as water. However, when sea ice melts it is replaced by dark ocean, which does not reflect sunlight but absorbs it, converting it into heat. This is probably the major reason why temperatures have increased twice as fast in the Arctic as in the Northern Hemisphere in general.
And what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic – Arctic warming also affects the climate at lower latitudes. Extreme weather events at lower latitudes are among the consequences of the loss of sea ice from the Arctic Ocean.
Glacial ice is a different matter. In Greenland we find a continent-wide ice sheet, produced by falling snow over millions of years. This glacial ice flows slowly towards the ocean, where it either melts or breaks apart to form icebergs. The amount of ice lost at the edges used to equal to the accumulation of new snow every year, but the warmer climate has thrown the Greenland ice sheet out of balance. Currently, the amount lost each year is 200–300 billion tonnes, a rate that is expected to increase dramatically.
Unlike melting sea ice, melting glacial ice does affect global sea levels. Water that evaporated from the ocean in the past has been stored for millennia as ice. When it returns to the ocean, this water causes the sea level to rise.
Water from Greenland’s ice sheet raises sea level approximately 0.3 mm each year, and this amount is dramatically increasing. In 2015, for example, the sea level rose 0.7 mm. Before the end of the 21st century, Arctic temperatures may well have risen by more than 3 degrees Celsius, making the Greenland ice sheet unstable. If all of this ice melts, sea level will rise 7 metres.
Water from glacial ice has already changed the salinity of the ocean around Greenland, which could potentially cause a reduction of the Gulf Stream, the basis for north-western Europe’s relatively warm climate. The first signs of a weakening of the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic have already been detected.
The blocks of ice included in Ice Watch each weigh about 10 tonnes. Fished out of the sea in the Nuuk Fjord, they had already been lost from the ice sheet before being ‘harvested’, and were rapidly melting into the ocean. The acquisition of the ice thus did not affect the Greenland ice sheet, which loses the equivalent of 1,000 such blocks of ice per second throughout the year.