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The map of Greenland will have to be redrawn. A new island has appeared off its coast, suddenly separated from the mainland by the melting of Greenland's enormous ice sheet, a development that is being seen as the most alarming sign of global warming.
Several miles long, the island was once thought to be the tip of a peninsula halfway up Greenland's remote east coast but a glacier joining it to the mainland has melted away completely, leaving it surrounded by sea.
Shaped like a three-fingered hand some 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it has been discovered by a veteran American explorer and Greenland expert
As the satellite pictures and the main photo which we publish today make clear, Warming Island has been created by a quite undeniable, rapid and enormous physical transformation and is likely to be seen around the world as a potent symbol of the coming effects of climate change.
Sea level rise is already accelerating. Sea levels are going up around the world by about 3.1mm per year - the average for the period 1993-2003. That is itself sharply up from an average of 1.8mm per year over the longer period 1961-2003. Greenland ice now accounts for about 0.5 millimetre of the total. (Much of the rest of the rise is coming from the expansion of the world's sea water as it warms.)
Until two or three years ago, it was thought that the break-up of the ice sheet might take 1,000 years or more but a series of studies and alarming observations since 2004 have shown the disintegration is accelerating and, as a consequence, sea level rise may be much quicker than anticipated.