Climate Change Report on Iceland Presented Skip to content

Climate Change Report on Iceland Presented

A new report on climate change in Iceland was presented yesterday, stating that temperatures have risen considerably for the past decades and the ongoing period of warmth will cause Iceland’s glaciers to melt rapidly in the 21st century.

“Iceland’s environment has reacted quickly to this warming,” chairman of the scientific committee on climate change Halldór Björnsson, who presented the report, told Morgunbladid.

“We expect the warming to continue for the next decades and more significant changes to the environment than what we have seen before. Iceland will look very different with a changed biosphere by the mid-21st century and even more so by the end of this century,” Björnsson predicted.

The report states that the Icelandic climate has become warmer than during the early and mid-20th century, when Iceland also experienced a period of warmth. It is therefore expected that glaciers will almost have disappeared by the mid-22nd century and that the flow of water will be 25 percent more than during the late 20th century.

Water engineer Árni Snorrason said the report shows that Iceland can harness more hydro energy than in the past. More energy can be harnessed from the same waterfalls with power plants while the glaciers are melting. The flow will peak after about 50 to 80 years, but from then on the flow of many glacial rivers will decrease.

“In the future we have to do things differently than we do today,” Snorrason said in regards to energy harnessing.

Thorsteinn Hilmarsson, information officer at Landsvirkjun – the National Power Company, said increased flow in rivers is already being used to sell electricity, among other things to power a plant producing capacitor aluminum foil in Eyjafjördur, north Iceland, about 600 megawatt hours (MWh) per year.

Other changes that follow rising temperatures in Iceland are that southern demersal fish species are migrating northwards and their presence in Icelandic waters are growing. By the end of this century around 80 new species of layer birds may have migrated to Iceland.

There will also me more opportunities for grain farming. By the mid-21st century, wheat and pumpkins will be able to be grown in Iceland.

On a negative note, damages caused by weather-related catastrophes are likely to increase in this century, among other things because of rising water levels, and volcanic activity in the Vatnajökull glacier area is expected to increase.

The scientific committee on climate change was established by Iceland’s government in fall 2007 and its report will form a basis for its policy on environmental issues. Meteorologists, a geologist, marine biologist and an engineer have seats on the committee.

“This report shows that climate change has become apparent in Iceland. The warming for the past century has had as much effect here as in other parts of the world,” said Minister of the Environment Thórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir.

Sveinbjarnardóttir said the first actions her ministry will take in reaction to the report is to investigate and monitor changes to Iceland’s nature more extensively and efficiently and estimate the risk of natural disasters to not only create a strategy on how to react to such disasters but to prevent them from happening in the first place.

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