The world’s newest island makes it on to the map as the Arctic Uunartoq Qeqertaq, or Warming Island, is officially recognized.
If you have never heard of Uunartoq Qeqertaq, it’s possibly because it’s one of the world’s newest islands, appearing in 2006 off the east coast of Greenland, 340 miles north of the Arctic circle when the ice retreated because of global warming. This Thursday the new land – translated from Inuit as Warming Island – was deemed permanent enough by map-makers to be included in a new edition of the most comprehensive atlas in the world.
Uunartoq Qeqertaq joins Southern Sudan and nearly 7,000 other countries and places added or changed since the last edition of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, reflecting political change in Africa, administrative changes in China, burgeoning cities in developing countries, climate change, and large infrastructure projects which have changed the flow of rivers, lakes and coastlines.
The world’s biggest physical changes in the past few years are mostly seen nearest the poles where climate change has been most extreme. Greenland appears considerably browner round the edges, having lost around 15%, or 300,000 sq km, of its permanent ice cover. Antarctica is smaller following the break-up of the Larsen B and Wilkins ice shelves.
But the Aral Sea in central Asia, which had previously shrunk to just 25% of its size only 80 years ago, is now larger than it was only five years ago, thanks to Kazakhstan redirecting water into it. Elsewhere in Asia, islands are appearing off the mouths of the Ganges and the Yangtze rivers as the amount of silt brought down from the Himalayas and inland China changes.
Sections of the Rio Grande, Yellow, Colorado and Tigris rivers are now drying out each summer. In Mongolia, the Ongyin Gol has been redirected to allow gold mining, while the Colorado river these days does not reach the sea most years. “We are increasingly concerned that in the near future important geographical features will disappear for ever. Greenland could reach a tipping point in about 30 years,” said Jethro Lennox, editor of the atlas.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Image via Grist