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Geography of Iceland: Map


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A map of Iceland showing major towns and geographical features.

The ridge between the tectonic plates of Eurasia and North America

Icelandmarker is the second-largest island in Europe. The island is located east of Greenlandmarker and immediately south of the Arctic Circle, atop the divergent boundary of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the North Atlantic Oceanmarker. It lies about from New York Citymarker and from Scotlandmarker.

Iceland has extensive volcanic and geothermal activity. The rift associated with the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which marks the division between the European and North American tectonic plates, runs across Iceland from the southwest to the northeast. This geographic feature is prominent at the Þingvellir National Parkmarker, where the promontory creates an extraordinary natural amphitheatre. The site was the home of Iceland's parliament, the Alþing, which was first convened in 930.

About half of Iceland's land area, which is of recent volcanic origin, consists of a mountainous lava desert (highest elevation above sea level) and other wasteland. Eleven percent is covered by three large glaciers:

and several smaller ones:

Twenty percent of the land is used for grazing, and only 1% is cultivated. An ambitious reforestation program is under way. Fossilized tree pollen and descriptions by the early settlers indicate that prior to human settlement in the 8-900s, trees covered about 30-40% of the island. Today, however, there are only small patches of the original birch forests left, the most prominent are Hallormsstaðaskógur and Vaglaskógur.

The inhabited areas are on the coast, particularly in the southwest; the central highlands are totally uninhabited.

Because of the Gulf Stream's moderating influence, the climate is characterized by damp, cool summers and relatively mild but windy winters. In Reykjavíkmarker, the average temperature is in July and in January (Koppen: Cfc).


Geographic coordinates:
Northern Europe (for cultural and historical reasons it is not considered to be a part of North America), between the Greenland Seamarker and the North Atlantic Oceanmarker, northwest of the British Islesmarker.
* North: Rifstangi, 66°32′3" N (Kolbeinsey, 67°08,9 N)
* South: Kötlutangi, 63°23′6" N (Surtsey, 63°17,7 N)
* West: Bjargtangar, 24°32′1" W
* East: Gerpir, 13°29′6" W (Hvalbakur, 13°16,6 W)
Map references:
Arctic Region

* Total: 103,125 km²
* Land: 100,329 km²
* Water: 2,796 km²
Slightly smaller than Kentuckymarker; about half the size of Great Britainmarker; slightly larger than Hokkaidōmarker
Land boundaries:
0 km
4,988 km
Maritime claims:
* Continental shelf: or to the edge of the continental margin
* Exclusive economic zone:
* Territorial sea:
Temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; cool summers, damp in the South and West
Mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, ice fields; coast deeply indented by bays and fjords
Elevation extremes:
* Lowest point: Jökulsárlón Lagoon: -146 m, Atlantic Oceanmarker 0 m
* Highest point: Hvannadalshnúkurmarker 2,110 m
Natural resources:
Fish, hydropower, geothermal power.
Land use:
* Arable land: 0.07%
* Permanent crops: 0%
* Permanent pastures: 23%
* Forests and woodland: 1%
* Other: 76% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land:
Natural hazards:
Earthquakes, volcanic activity, avalanches, and glacial lake outburst flooding (or jökulhlaups)
Environment—current issues:
Water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment
Environment—international agreements:
* Party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution (MARPOL 73/78), Wetlands, Whaling
* Signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
Strategic location between Greenlandmarker and Europe; westernmost European country; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe

See also

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