Iceland’s Glaciers Shrunk by 800 Square Kilometres in 20 Years

In the past 20 years, the surface area of Iceland’s glaciers has decreased by around 800km2, an area roughly the size of the Reykjanes peninsula. The data comes from a report by Iceland’s foremost glacier researchers that presents an overview of the country’s glaciers at the end of 2019. The report shows that glaciers in Iceland have been retreating rapidly for 25 years, what its authors assert is “one of the most obvious consequences of a warming climate.”

Iceland’s glaciers reached their maximum area since the island’s settlement at the end of the 19th century. Since then, their surface area has decreased by almost 2,200km2 (849mi2). In recent years, the glaciers have been shrinking at a rate of 40km2 each year, equivalent to around 7,500 American football fields. When it comes to the retreat of their edges, Hagafellsjökull eystri in Langjökull ice cap and Síðujökull and Tungnárjökull in Vatnajökull ice cap hold the 2019 record, retreating by 150m (492ft) last year alone.

Glacier lagoons grow as glaciers retreat

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, a popular tourist site, started to form in the mid-1930s because of the retreat of Vatnajökull glacier. The Breiðamerkurjökull outlet glacier retreats rapidly where it calves into the lagoon, as much as 150-400m (492-1,312ft) in 2019. On average, Jökulsárlón and Breiðárlón, as well as some smaller lagoons in the area, have grown by 0.5-1km2 (0.2-0.4mi2) annually in recent years.

The report was based on measurements done by The Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland, the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the National Power Company of Iceland, the South East Iceland Nature Research Center, and the Iceland Glaciological Society.

The full report is available in Icelandic and English.

Magma No Longer Accumulating By Þorbjörn Mountain

Grindavík - Þorbjörn

Magma has stopped collecting under Þorbjörn mountain on the Reykjanes peninsula, and the uplift (land rise) that it was causing has now stopped. The Icelandic Met Office reports that seismic activity in the area has decreased significantly, though it remains important for the area’s residents to take preventative measures due to the likelihood of earthquakes.

In late January, Icelandic authorities declared a state of uncertainty due to possible magma accumulation a few kilometres west of Þorbjörn mountain. Land rise and earthquake swarms were detected in the area, suggesting magma was accumulating underground. Nearby residents were prepared for a possible eruption, though authorities stated it was more likely the activity would calm without one, as has been the case.

“In the beginning of April the uplift in Þorbjörn decreased and, in the second part of the month, it stopped. The area around Þorbjörn is now most likely recovering after the large induced stress, and the injected magma is cooling down and contracting,” a notice from the Icelandic Met Office states.

Earthquakes may still occur

“The current observations and the course of events over the last several months suggest that there is an active long-term process ongoing in the area,” the notice continues. “The possibility of renewed activity in the near future at Þorbjörn, Reykjanes or elsewhere on the Reykjanes peninsula cannot be discarded.”

The Met Office encourages residents of the area to prevent damage or injuries by securing furniture in their homes so that they do not fall in the event of an earthquake. This includes residents in the Reykjavík capital area, as earthquakes on the Reykjanes peninsula can be felt there as well.

Live Feed of Blackbird Nest Delights Bird Lovers

svartþrastarhreiður blackbird nest

Bird lovers around the world can now tune into a live feed of a blackbird nest in Iceland where one hardworking parent is incubating three eggs. The eggs are expected to hatch in the coming days. The feed is provided by RÚV television program Landinn.

Called a svartþröstur in Icelandic, the Eurasian blackbird (Turdus merula) was first recorded breeding in Iceland in 1969. There are now over 2,000 blackbird pairs in the country, mostly nesting and wintering in Southwest Iceland but also in other regions.

The Eurasian blackbird mostly nests in trees where it builds a neat, cup-shaped nest. Its light-blue eggs are about the size of a 10-króna coin, measuring around 2.7cm (1in) across. The birds most often lay 3-5 eggs, which they incubate for 13-15 days before they hatch. The species is monogamous, and an established pair will usually stay together as long as they survive.

Migratory birds return to nest and guests arrive

Spring is the ideal season for birdwatching in Iceland, as migratory birds are returning to the country from their wintering grounds to nest. It is also the best season to spot birds that are only occasional visitors, such as the glossy ibis below. The species was spotted on May 2 for only the 9th time ever in Iceland.

Iceland’s “The Mountain” Breaks World Record for Deadlift

Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson The Mountain

Icelander Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson set a new world record for deadlift on May 2 when he lifted 501 kilograms (1,104.5 pounds). Hafþór is a professional strongman and actor, best known for his portrayal of Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane in HBO series Game of Thrones. Hafþór surpassed Eddie Hall’s previous strongman deadlift record of 500kg (1,102.3lbs) set in 2016.

Hafþór is the first person to have won the Arnold Strongman Classic, Europe’s Strongest Man and World’s Strongest Man in the same calendar year. He has been the defending champion of the Arnold Strongman Classic three years running.

Hafþór’s record-setting was little reported on in Iceland, where he is a controversial figure. In 2017, two Icelandic companies reconsidered their promotional contracts with the strongman when several of his ex-girlfriends came forward with allegations of domestic abuse. One of them, Thelma Björk Steimann, also the mother of Hafþór’s child, described years of sexual violence she was subjected to by Hafþór in an interview that same year. Hafþór has denied all the accusations.

Raising Riders

To reach Hólar University in winter, you must drive through the ice-covered Hjaltadalur valley. On your way there, you’ll pass groups of horses in almost every colour of the rainbow. You’ll notice their thick and shaggy winter coat, and how they huddle together to keep warm. The snow on their furry backs might send a shiver down yours – but the horses have been here for a millennium, bred to survive the harsh conditions.

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