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Geographic map of Iceland

Geographic map of Iceland

Iceland is an island nation in Northern Europe and is part of the Scandinavian Region. It is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, between Greenland and Great Britain, northwest of the Faroe Islands. Iceland is bordered to the north by the Greenland Sea, to the east and south by the North Atlantic Ocean and to the west by the Denmark Strait.
Iceland’s population (as of 2020) was 366,700, making it one of the least populated countries in Europe.
The capital is Reykjavík, the most populous city in the nation with around 140,000 inhabitants, while the second most important city is Akureyri with around 20,000 inhabitants.
This island, located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, has marked volcanic and geothermal activity, which strongly characterizes its landscape. The interior consists mainly of a desert plateau, mountains and glaciers, from which many glacial rivers flow to the sea, crossing the plains. The climate of the island is quite varied: in the north it is markedly polar, as is the centre, while in the rest of the island the climate is cold oceanic thanks to the Gulf Stream, which allows for good habitability.

Geography –
Iceland is an island nation above the Arctic Circle. It is the westernmost country in Europe and the second largest island state on the continent, after Greenland.
Iceland covers an area of approximately 103,000 square kilometers, making it a relatively small country in terms of territory.
Iceland lies approximately halfway between continental Europe and Greenland, where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. This unique geological location has created a number of interesting geological features.
This island is characterized by a very varied geography, with many mountain ranges, volcanoes, glaciers, rivers and lakes. The most important mountain range is the Icelandic Plateau (central Iceland), with Mount Hvannadalshnúkur being the highest peak in the country, reaching an altitude of around 2,110 metres.
Iceland is known as the “Land of Fire and Ice” due to high volcanic activity. There are over 130 active volcanoes on the island, and volcanic eruption is a relatively common occurrence.
About 11% of Iceland’s surface is covered by glaciers. The Vatnajökull glacier is the largest in Europe in terms of volume. These glaciers have a great influence on the geography and climate of the island.
Iceland is crossed by numerous rivers, including the Þjórsá river, the longest on the island. There are also many lakes, including Lake Þingvallavatn in Þingvellir National Park.
The island has a very rugged coastline, with numerous inlets, fjords and cliffs. The northern coast is more open to the Atlantic Ocean, while the southern coast is more protected by fjords.
Iceland’s population is concentrated mainly along the southwest coast, with the capital, Reykjavík, and the surrounding area hosting the majority of the inhabitants.
Iceland is rich in natural resources, including geothermal and hydroelectric energy, thanks to its numerous hot springs and rivers. These resources are exploited for the production of electricity and heating.
Iceland’s unique geography, with its combination of volcanoes, glaciers and spectacular landscapes, has made the island a place of great interest to geologists and tourists from around the world.

Climate –
Iceland has a cold oceanic climate with harsh winters and cool summers. Its location close to the Arctic Circle means the island experiences long summer days with almost continuous sunlight and long winter nights.
This country is known for its cold and variable climate, influenced mainly by its geographical location in the North Atlantic and the Gulf Stream.
Temperatures in Iceland are generally cold. Winter averages are around 0°C, while summer temperatures rarely exceed 15°C. In winter, especially inland, temperatures can drop well below freezing, with the possibility of severe frosts.
Iceland is known for its frequent rainfall, which can occur at any time of the year. Precipitation varies from light rain to heavy snow, with most snowfall concentrated in the winter months. Winters are generally wetter than summer, when days can be drier.
The island is often battered by strong winds, especially along the coast. These winds can increase the perception of cold, even when temperatures are not extremely low.
During the summer, Iceland experiences the “midnight sun” phenomenon, where the sun does not set completely, providing more light during the night hours. On the other hand, during the winter, Iceland has many hours of darkness, with the sun rising for only a few hours a day in the northern regions.
The weather is known for its unpredictability. A day can start out sunny and then turn into a rainy or snowy day in the blink of an eye.
In fact, Iceland can present some significant climatic variations from one region to another. Coastal areas tend to have milder winters than inland, where temperatures can be significantly lower.
In general, Iceland is a country with a cold and wet climate, and it is important to be well prepared to deal with changing weather conditions if you visit this fascinating Nordic country.

Flora –
The flora of Iceland is characterized by a variety of plants adapted to the extreme climatic conditions of the island, including the cold climate and the long hours of daylight during the summer period. The main floristic expressions are the following:
1. Moss and lichens: These non-vascular plants are abundant in Iceland and cover many surfaces, including rocks and soils. They are important for soil stabilization and water absorption.
2. Dwarf birches (Betula nana): These small trees are found in different parts of Iceland and are adapted to the cold climate. Dwarf birches are often the largest plants in regions outside of forested areas.
3. Swamp willow (Salix herbacea): This small shrub is common in wet areas of Iceland and is adapted to harsh growing conditions. Its leaves are often used as food for livestock.
4. Saxifraga: This genus of plants is well adapted to Icelandic conditions and grows in several varieties, including rock walls and alpine areas.
5. Thorny plums (Rubus chamaemorus): These shrubs produce berries known as “cloudberries” in English and are often used for the preparation of jams and desserts.
6. Camedrio (Thymus praecox): This plant is common in pastures and produces small aromatic leaves used as an aromatic herb.
7. Erlingur (Angelica archangelica): This plant grows in Iceland and is traditionally used in herbal medicine for its medicinal properties.
8. Pulsatilla: These flowers are known as “Easter anemone” and are typical of the alpine regions of Iceland.
9. Lupines (Lupinus nootkatensis): These invasive plants were introduced to Iceland, and are now found in many parts of the island. They are known for their colorful flowers.
10. Arctic grass (Artemisia norvegica): This plant is adapted to the extreme conditions of Iceland and grows in many areas of the island.
These are just some of the plants that can be found in Iceland. Iceland’s flora has been influenced by its unique geography and cold climate, and many of these plants are adapted to survive in these adverse conditions.

Fauna –
Iceland is an island which, due to its geographical isolation and harsh climatic conditions, has relatively limited fauna. However, there are several animal species that can be found on the island. Here are some of the most common species:
1. Icelandic Sheep (Ovis aries): Icelandic sheep are one of Iceland’s most iconic species. They are adapted to the cold climate and difficult living conditions on the island.
2. Icelandic reindeer (Rangifer tarandus): This subspecies of reindeer is unique to Iceland. Icelandic reindeer live primarily inland and are important to the local economy and culture.
3. Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus): Arctic foxes are found in Iceland and have adapted to the island’s harsh climate conditions.
4. Seals (Phoca vitulina and Halichoerus grypus): Seals can be found along the Icelandic coast, with the harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) and the gray seal (Halichoerus grypus) among the most common species.
5. Seabirds: Iceland is an important refuge for seabirds. The cliffs of Iceland are populated by species such as puffins, gulls, fleas and razorbills.
6. Ducks (Anatidae): Icelandic waters are home to several species of ducks and other ducks, including lame ducks, coots and snipes.
7. Whales: The waters surrounding Iceland are renowned for whale watching, and common species include the fin whale, sei whale and orca.
8. Freshwater Fish: Iceland has rivers and lakes rich in trout, salmon, and other freshwater fish.
9. Insects: Iceland has a limited population of insects due to the cold climate, but mosquitoes and midges are common in the summer.
It is important to note that Iceland is a fragile environment and the animals on the island are protected by law. Seabirds are particularly sensitive to human disturbance during the breeding season, so it is important to respect local restrictions and not get too close to bird nests and colonies.

Guido Bissanti

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