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Iceland Geography

Geography

Iceland is largely an arctic desert punctuated by mountains, glaciers, geysers, hot springs, volcanoes and waterfalls.

Most of the vegetation and agricultural areas are in the lowlands close to the coastline.

Iceland's most distinctive features are the glaciers that cover over 4,600 sq. mi (11,922 sq. km) or 11. 5% of the total area of the country. During the past few decades, however, they've markedly thinned and retreated owing to a milder climate.

By far the largest of the glaciers is the Vatnajokull in southeast Iceland, with an area of 3,240 sq. mi (8,400 sq. km). The Vatnajokull glacier is equal in size to all the glaciers on the European mainland put together, and reaches a thickness of 3000 ft. (1 km).

The highest point in Iceland is Hvannadalshnukur, a peak on the edge of the Öræfajökull Volcano, which rises 6,922 feet (2,110 m).

And speaking of Volcanoes, on March 21, 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in southern Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821, forcing 600 people to flee their homes. Further eruptions in April forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes. And in fact, the resultant cloud of volcanic ash brought major disruption to air travel across Europe.

Geography Iceland
Location: Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the UK

Geographic coordinates:

65 00 N, 18 00 W

Map references:

Arctic Region

Area:

total: 103,000 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km

Area - comparative:

slightly smaller than Kentucky

Land boundaries:

0 km

Coastline:

4,988 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin

Climate:

temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers

Terrain:

mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,119 m (at Vatnajokull glacier)

Natural resources:

fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite

Land use:

arable land: 0.07%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 99.93% (2001)

Irrigated land:

0 sq km

Environment - current issues:

water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Transboundary Air Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note:

strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; Reykjavik is the northernmost national capital in the world; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe

Note: The information tabled directly above was researched by and provided by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency

godafoss waterfall

Godafoss Waterfall, Iceland

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This page was last updated on August 12, 2015.