Iceland's glaciers retreat every year

November 09, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

The Glaciers and ice caps in Iceland cover around 11% of the country's 103,125 square kilometers, that is about 11k square km. The four big ones are Langjökull, Hofsjökull, Mýrdalsjökull and Vatnajökull, which is the largest glacier in Europe, about 8300 square km with an average thickness of 400 meters up to 1000 meters. Iceland's highest peak is Hvannadalshnjúkur in Öræfajökull glacier which is a part of Vatnajökull, 2.109 meters high.

Hvannadalshnjúkur mountain in Öræfajökull glacier ist the highest point in Iceland.

Many icelandic glaciers do cover volcanoes, both active ones and some who have been dormant for thousands of years, such as the Snæfellsjökull glacier. On the other hand, many of Iceland's most active volcanoes are under a glacial cover, like the Grímsvötn volcano, which erupted in 2011 and Eyjafjallajökull which managed to stop flights in northern Europe for few weeks in 2010. One of the most talked about is the Bárðarbunga volcano system which is under a layer of 800 meters thick ice in the northern part of Vatnajökull glacier.

The Gígjökull glacier before the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull 2010.   The Gígjökull glacier after the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull.







Snæfellsjökull glacier in autumn 2014.


Another active volcano which has been silent for almost hundred years is Katla in the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier. It's last eruption was in 1918, and scientists are monitoring the volcano regularly because usually Katla erupts every 40-80 years. When traveling over Mýrdalssandur sand stretch you can see the effect of it's glacial floods, because after the eruption in 1918 the coastline was extended by 5 km to the south.

Mýrdalsjökull glacier and it outlet glacier Kötlujökull. The river Leirá runs from under it.

The Icelandic glaciers are loosing ice due to climate change, and some outlet glaciers have retreated hundreds of meters for the last decades. One of the former glaciers Okglacier in Borgarfjörður recently lost it's glacier title because it's ice is not thick enough. Now it is jus Ok mountain. Most of the Outlet glaciers are getting smaller every year, like Sólheimajökull which has retreated 887 meters in the past 20 years, and if we look at Hoffelsjökull outlet glacier her below, it retreated 2,6 km from 1930-1992, and is still getting smaller. In front of it a large lagoon has formed, but not as clean as the Glacier lagoon or Fjallsárlón at the bottom.

The Sólheimajökull glacier has been rapidly retreating for the past years.


Kvíárjökull is one of the outlet glaciers from Vatnajökull. Now there is a lagoon in front of it.


Close to Skaftafell is the Svínafellsjökull outlet glacier.


Fjallsárjökull outlet glacier has formed a beautiful lagoon, Fjallsárlón.


One of the small but beautiful glaciers in Iceland is Eiríksjökull glacier in West Iceland. It is the largest table mountain in Iceland, rising more than 1000 meters over it's surrounding, formed by a subglacial volcanic activity. Here is a view from Borgarfjörður.

Eiríksjökull glacier in the highlands of West Iceland. And one tiny fact in the end. My name is Jökull, and in Icelandic Jökull means glacier, if you did not figure that our already :)


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