Iceland – a nation where 10 percent of the land surface is permanently covered in a thick white coat. But for how much longer?
The glaciers have been in retreat for the last 50 years, a phenomenon which is speeding up revealing black lava scars.
The smallest glaciers have already completely disappeared.
Europe’s longest glacier is the Vatnajoekull, but it could be gone in the next 100 years.
Pilot Hoerdur Gudmundsson is worried about the great thaw:
“It hurts to have to see this. After all, glaciers are energy reservoirs for rivers and power plants, plus they are Iceland’s main attraction. Without them the tourism industry will encounter big problems.”
Iceland is a volcanic island just outside of the Arctic circle. Temperatures there have risen constantly over the past 50 years.
Winters are getting milder every year. Minus 20 days seem to have gone for good, and roads are no longer cut by snow.
Without the ground’s white coat, the sun’s rays are no longer reflected away, adding to the warming.
Professor Helgi Bjoernsson is a glaciologist. He thinks the speed of the changes rules out natural causes:
“A flowing river in February was unheard of in the old days. If the glaciers keep melting, the water levels of the rivers will rise, some of them will flood. Then some day, when the glaciers have gone, they will dry out completely”.
The melting glaciers are also starting to pose some serious problems for civil engineers like Helgi Johannesson:
“It’s uncertain how rivers will change their courses. Some of them will overflow and push lots of boulders and mud ahead of them. We are trying to plan in a way that most of the streets and bridges will be prepared to withstand any extremes”.
A country of fire and ice, Iceland is already trying to prepare itself for a very different future that appears closer by the day.