The Glaciers of Iceland

If you are seeking an extraordinary world, then Iceland and its glaciers is a wonderful example. Virtually all classifications of them are found in this country, from the smaller cirque glaciers to those that are reminders of the inland ice of Greenland. Glaciers receive a classification determined by their size and how they relate to topography.

Iceland is a landscape that is constantly changing as dictated by nature. Glaciers are formed because of a larger snowfall in winter, than can melt during the following summer. The climate of a region determines the extent and size of a glacier. There is a balance between the ice that accumulates on the upper levels and that which melts closer to the foot of it, the terminus. This is referred to as the mass balance of a glacier.

Irrespective of the size of a glacier, certain principles determine its behavior. It is primarily always in motions, moving downwards even when the terminus is in a stable situation for a length of time. The ice caps with their many exit glaciers are temperate and wet-based. Therefore, they are constantly at the pressure point, throughout the mass of the ice and during the entire year, except for the surface layers in winter.

A characteristic of the Icelandic glaciers is the large number of glacier tongues that are constantly moving. On occasions, they advance quickly and then gradually retreat until reaching the difference between the melting and advance. They are a crucial source of water needed for the production of electricity in Iceland and are therefore, subjected to thorough research and monitoring.

With about 11% of Iceland covered by glaciers, there is enormous opportunity for amazing landscape photography and experiencing a totally foreign and exciting adventure. The largest glaciers are located in the south of the country and the central highlands. Although traveling across the glaciers used to be a rare occurrence, today there is generally at least someone seeking that amazing ice sensation. However, no trip should be undertaken unless accompanied by a professional guide.

For an encounter that is truly breathtaking a journey to the Southeast of Iceland would enable you to see Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in the country. This mighty creation of nature extends over an area of 8,300 square kilometers (3204.637 square miles) that is about equal to the area of all European glaciers combined, excluding those of Iceland. The density of Vatnajokull can reach about 1,000 meters (0.621 mile).

Relatively far behind Vatnajokull, but still highly impressive are Langjokull and Hofsjokull, located in the central part of the country and which are two other of the larger Icelandic glaciers. These are 935 square kilometers (361.004 square miles) and 925 square kilometers (357.143 square miles) respectively. Not to be neglected is the southern part of Iceland and the Myrdalsjokull glacier with an area of 596 square kilometers (230.116 square miles).

Seemingly small compared to its counterparts is the Drangajokull glacier, extending for 160 square kilometers and situated in the northwest of the country. One of the smallest glaciers in Iceland is situated just across the bay from Reykjavik; the Snaefellsnes peak.

No visit to Iceland would be complete without viewing its amazing and incredible ice fields and glacial landscapes.