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Geography of Iceland

Iceland is a volcanic island in the North Atlantic Ocean east of Greenland and immediately south of the Arctic Circle. It lies about 4,200 kilometers (2,600 mi.) from New York and 830 kilometers (520 mi.) from Scotland.

About half of Iceland's land area, which is of recent volcanic origin, consists of a mountainous lava desert (highest elevation 2,119 meters--6,970 ft. --above sea level), and other wasteland. Eleven percent are covered by three large glaciers, Vatnajökull, Langjökull and Hofsjökull, 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. The inhabited areas are on the coast, particularly in the southwest, whereas 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 Reykjavik, the average temperature is 11°C (52°F) in July and -1°C (30°F) in January.

Location: Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea[?] and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the United Kingdom

Geographic coordinates: 65 00 N, 18 00 W

North: Rifstangi, 66°32',3 N South: Kötlutangi, 63°23',6 N West: Bjargtangar, 24°32',1 W East: Gerpir, 13°29',6 W

Map references: Arctic Region

total: 103,125 sq km
land: 100,329 sq km
water: 2,796 sq km

Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Kentucky; about half the size of Great Britain

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 4,988 km

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

Climate: temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; cool summers, damp in the South and West

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

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Jölkulsárlón Lagoon:-146m, Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Hvannadalshnúkur[?] 2,119 m

Natural resources: fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite

Land use:
arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 23%
forests and woodland: 1%
other: 76% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: NA sq km

Natural hazards: earthquakes and volcanic activity; avalanches

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[?], Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants[?], Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note: strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe

See also : Iceland

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