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Iceland Geography


Iceland, the westernmost country of Europe, is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, just below the Arctic Circle and a little more than 322 km (200 mi) eastof Greenland, 1,038 km (645 mi) west of Norway, and 837 km (520 mi) northwest of Scotland. It has an area of 103,000 sq km (39,769 sq mi), extending 490 km (304 mi) east-west, and 312 km (194 mi) north-south. Comparatively, the area occupied by Iceland is slightly smaller than the state of Kentucky. The total length of coastline is about 4,988 km (3,099 mi). The republic includes many smaller islands, of which the chief are the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) off the southern coast.

Iceland's capital city, Reykjavík, is located on the country's southwest coast.

Iceland consists mainly of a central volcanic plateau, with elevations from about 700 to 800 m (2,297-2,625 ft), ringed by mountains, the highest of which is Hvannadalshnúkur (2,119 m/ 6,952 ft), in the Öræfajökull glacier.

Lava fields cover almost 11% of the country, and glaciers almost 12%. Among the many active volcanoes there is an average of about one eruption every five years. The largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull (about 8,400 sq km/3,200 sq mi), is in southeast Iceland. There are also many lakes, snowfields, hot springs and geysers (the word "geyser" itself is of Icelandic origin). The longest river is the Thjórsá (about 230 km/143 mi) in southern Iceland. Most rivers are short and none are navigable, but because of swift currents and waterfalls, Iceland's rivers have important waterpower potential. There are strips of low arable land along the southwest coast and in the valleys. Good natural harbours are provided by fjords on the north, east and west coasts.

Despite Iceland's northern latitude, its climate is fairly mild because of the Gulf Stream, part of which almost encircles the island. There are no extreme temperature variations between seasons, but frequent weather changes are usual, particularly in the south, which experiences many storms and heavy precipitation. Temperatures at Reykjavík range from an average of 11°C (52° F) in July to -1°C (30° F) in January, with an annual mean of about 5°C (41°F). Humidity is high, and there is much fog in the east. Annual rainfall in the north ranges from 30 to 70 cm (12-28 in); in the south, 127-203 cm (50-80 in); and in the mountains, up to 457 cm (180 in). Winters are long and fairly mild, summers short and cool. Summer days are long and nights short; in winter, days are short and nights long.


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

4,970 km

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

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

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

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