Climate Change Heating Up Iceland, the Land of Fire and Ice

Iceland’s pretty hot right now. With direct flights these days from major cities to its capital Reykjavik, tons of tourists are exploring its vast geological offerings--ranging from geysers to glaciers to geothermal pools.

It’s also hot because of global warming, which is taking its toll on the country in dramatic ways. My friend and I hiked on the Vatnajökull glacier, the largest ice cap in Iceland and the second largest in Europe. The average thickness of the ice is 1,300 feet, with the thickest part being 3,300 feet.

However, we were lucky.

Our tour guide said that a lot of the glacier tongue, which we were walking on, would be melted within 2 to 3 years because of elevated temperatures, and then they’d have to take boats to get to the glaciers.

In fact, the glaciers in Iceland will decrease by 40 percent by 2100 and virtually disappear by 2200 if global warming continues, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. In the U.S., the glaciers in Glacier National Park in Montana are expected to be completely melted within the next 20 years, the Department of Interior reported.

Vatnajokull glacier Iceland

So in their place, vast iceberg lagoons are forming and look eerily majestic. In Iceland, the most recent icebergs which have broken from the glaciers are translucent blue. This occurs because the ice is so dense it absorbs every other color of the light spectrum except blue, which is transmitted and scattered.

iceberg in lagoon

The upside of 11 percent of Iceland being covered by ice is how amazing their water tasted. We even got to take a sip from a stream on the glacier face. And apparently ice crystals from glaciers take a lot longer to melt--making for a cool souvenir … for a few hours at least!

Iceberg friend