Iceland Geography

Iceland Geography and Population

Iceland – geography

Icelandic history is without real wars, but can in turn be described as one long battle with nature, a battle against ice and fire. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, sea ice, floods, landslides and climate deterioration have all left clear traces in history, and in today’s Iceland it still happens that society is powerless in the face of the ravages of nature. During the volcanic eruption on Heimaey in 1973, 5,000 residents had to be evacuated; on the northwestern peninsula in 1995 avalanches killed several residents of two isolated fishing villages, and a violent glacier run from Vatnajökull in 1996 washed away two bridges and a long stretch of the main road on the south coast. In addition, the frequent loss of human life at sea.


Iceland is Europe’s most sparsely populated country, and its total population is only slightly larger than Aarhus Municipality’s. The buildings are located predominantly on the coast. The birth rate is slightly higher than in the other Nordic countries, and population growth is steady. The average life expectancy is among the highest in the world. The population development can be traced far back when Iceland, as the first country in the world, conducted an actual census as early as 1703. Among other things. one can see the severe demographic consequences of the smallpox epidemic in the early 1700’s, the famine of 1783-86 after the great eruption of Laki and the emigration to America from the 1870’s.

  • Countryaah: Do you know how many people there are in Iceland? Check this site to see population pyramid and resident density about this country.

Originally, the settlement was spread out over the country, where there were opportunities for agriculture and fishing. Villages, as they are known from the rest of the Nordic countries, were only rarely found. With the increasing importance of fishing in the 1800’s. several coastal cities emerged, and with the development of a modern welfare state, Iceland has become one of the world’s most urbanized communities. In the metropolitan area alone, three-fifths of the population live; less than 7% of the population lives outside the cities.

Ethnically, the population is very homogeneous; in the early 2000-t. however, Iceland has experienced a relatively large immigration from Poland in particular.


The development in employment follows the pattern from other developing countries with now less than 7% in fisheries and agriculture, approximately 20% employed in manufacturing and the rest in the tertiary sector. The domestic market is very small and the industry is predominantly an export-oriented fishing industry. In addition, there are a few very large companies based on imported raw materials and cheap electricity. Aluminum plants in Straumsvík SW of Reykjavík and in Grundartangi near Akranes, a ferrosilicon plant, also near Akranes, as well as several other energy-intensive industries account for more than 20% of Iceland’s exports (2004). On the other hand, the electricity consumption of these plants exceeds what all 300,000 Icelanders use for general purposes. The total electricity consumption will be further doubled by 2010, e.g. as a result of a new, large aluminum plant in Reyðarfjörður in Eastern Iceland.

The traditional wool industry with the well-known Icelandic sweaters has declined a lot. More important is the production of gear, machines and production systems for fishing, fishing industry and other food industry, based on advanced Icelandic know-how. Software for Advanced fisheries and food production are a new export niche in strong growth.


Large parts of Iceland offer ideal growing conditions for grass, and agriculture has traditionally been predominantly livestock farming. The form of operation is the independent family farm. Pigs and poultry are increasingly important, partly at the expense of the traditional production of lamb, beef cattle and root crops, and since the 1990’s, cereal crops, especially barley and oats, have gained a foothold in Icelandic agriculture.

Vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers, from greenhouses heated by geothermal energy, cover a significant part of the domestic market, just as the abundant amounts of hot water are used to raise the soil temperature in outdoor vegetable growing. Until the 1970’s, the goal of Icelandic agricultural policy was to ensure a stable food supply. Price and export subsidies have now been replaced by direct subsidies to sheep farmers and milk producers in particular, and in 2004 Iceland distanced itself from Switzerland and Norway as the world’s leading country in terms of agricultural subsidies. However, the aid is unevenly distributed and has not been able to prevent many farmers from leaving the profession or supplementing their income with other work, e.g. within the growing tourism industry.

Fishing and fishing industry

Iceland has rich fish banks on the continental shelf around the island. Here, warm and cold ocean currents meet, and the primary nutrient production is large. Pga. the development of fishing technology, the catches multiplied in the 1900’s. With sonar and sonar it is possible to find and follow the shoals of fish, and with modern gear you can catch large parts of the stock. The large boats with efficient gear mean that employment in the fishing industry has declined, but fishery products still account for approximately 60% of merchandise exports (2004); however, when exports of services are taken into account, the share of fisheries is below 40%. At national level, fishing employs 3.5% and the fishing industry 4.1% of the labor force (2004), but outside the capital region, the occupation is relatively much more important and in many fishing villages absolutely crucial.

approximately 40 species are exploited commercially with cod, haddock, saithe, redfish, halibut, whiting, herring and shrimp as the most important. Several species are heavily overfished, and certain stocks have been actually overfished. The herring stock collapsed in the 1960’s, and the cod stock has been in decline since World War II. Fisheries are now regulated by quotas on the basis of marine biologists’ recommendations; the quotas are allocated individually and can be traded between fishermen, a system that helps to concentrate the fishing industry on fewer and fewer companies. This development, together with the limited resources, has affected many of the smaller, fisheries-dependent communities. In terms of earnings, however, the industry has succeeded in compensating for the decline by investing in the processing of fresh fish rather than frozen or salted products.


The number of foreign guests has more than doubled since 1990, making tourism one of the fastest growing industries. Tourism makes an important contribution to the economy (12% of foreign exchange earnings) and employment (4% of the labor force). The majority of the 360,000 guests in 2004 came from Scandinavia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Most come in the summer and are particularly attracted to vast, unspoilt nature, volcanoes, glaciers and hot springs, but an increasing number of tourists pay shorter visits, especially in Reykjavík, at other times of the year.

Financial sector

Liberalizations in the 1990’s and the privatization of two banks in 2002 set in motion an almost explosive growth in Iceland’s financial sector. Following acquisitions abroad, the total balance sheet of the country’s three commercial banks in 2004 reached a size equivalent to three times Iceland’s GDP, and they are now among the largest in the Nordic region. At the same time, Icelandic companies have made significant foreign investments, especially in retail, aviation, real estate and media.

Iceland – plant life

Only approximately 1/4 of Iceland covered with vegetation. The flora consists mainly of northwestern European elements and there are no endemic species. Birch scrub has been used for fuel and cattle grazing and now covers only approximately 1% of the island’s area. In the lowlands, grass and dwarf shrubbery occurs with rapeseed, red fescue, heather and revelry; wetlands are dominated by semi-grasses such as star and carrion. High herbaceous vegetation is found in places with a favorable local climate, if these are protected against sheep grazing. Lava fields are invaded first by lichens and mosses, then by grasses and dwarf shrubs and can eventually be covered by low birch forest. In Iceland, approximately 450 species of vascular plants as well as 500 mosses and 450 lichens.

Iceland – geology

Iceland is located on a part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where volcanic activity has been particularly strong since the beginning of the split between the American and European lithosphere plates. The island is almost symmetrically built around an active volcanic distribution zone that extends in a northeast-southwest direction.

An eastern side branch extends from the central part of Iceland to Vestmannaeyjar; a western follows Reykjanes. The spread takes place with approximately 2 cm per year and is accompanied by earthquakes, which, however, only exceptionally cause great damage. The dispersal occurs by vigorous fracturing and by the rise of melts along dispersal zones that have several volcanic centers, eg Hekla, Krafla and Askja. The dispersal zone has changed places several times in leaps and bounds, and with it also the volcanic centers. In the intermediate areas there are plains of basaltic lava. These are formed by eruptions through fracture systems connected to the centers. Most of Iceland is made up of basaltic lavas, but a small part, approximately 10%, are acidic and intermediate rocks (andesites and rhyolites). In addition, 5-10% volcanic rocks (tuffs, agglomerates) and sediments. The oldest lava rocks date from the beginning of the Miocene for approximately 25 mio. years ago.

The climate at the beginning of the Miocene was much warmer than now, and in peat and lake deposits there are remnants of a heat-demanding flora. During the last part of the Tertiary period, the climate gradually became colder, and the first known glacier deposits are approximately 3 mio. years old. Since then, periods of icing have alternated with more ice-free conditions. During the last ice age (Weichsel), virtually all of Iceland was covered by glaciers.

During volcanic eruptions under glaciers, large amounts of meltwater are formed, resulting in violent meltwater currents, so-called glacial flows, which can cause great damage. In historical times, at least four subglacial volcanoes have been active, especially Katla under Mýrdalsjökull, which last erupted in 1918, and Grímsvötn during the country’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, which last erupted in 1996. The strong volcanic activity is the background for the occurrence of a large number of hot springs and geysers.

Volcanic eruptions in historical times, whose eruption production exceeds 1 km 3 of rock
year volcano nature
871 Water Age 1 plinian outbreak 2
934 Volcanic eruption basaltic column eruption
1000 Katla plinian outbreak
1104 Crochet plinian outbreak
1362 Öræfajökull plinian outbreak
1477 Fishing lakes basaltic column eruption
1485 Katla plinian outbreak
1510 Crochet plinian outbreak
1625 Katla plinian outbreak
1636 Crochet plinian outbreak
1660 Katla plinian outbreak
1693 Crochet plinian outbreak
1721 Katla plinian outbreak
1724-29 Lake Mývatn basaltic column eruption
1755 Katla plinian outbreak
1766 Crochet plinian outbreak
1783 Laki basaltic column eruption
1845 Crochet plinian outbreak
1875 Box plinian outbreak
1947-48 Crochet plinian outbreak
1963-67 Surtsey submarine eruption
1 The ash layer from the eruption is known as the settlement layer that fell under Iceland’s first settlements.
2 Explosive eruption with huge amounts of ash.
Small eruptions have caused local disasters. The eruption from Hekla in 1970 on 0.1 km of rock resulted in fluoride poisoning of cattle due to ash fall in Northern Iceland; the eruption on Heimaey in 1973, which was of a similar magnitude, resulted in the fishing village having to be abandoned approximately one year.

Iceland – language

Icelandic is the mother tongue of almost the entire population and the sole administrative and media outlet. It is, especially as far as the inflectional system is concerned, that of the Nordic languages ​​that has changed the least since the Viking Age, when it was brought to Iceland by Norwegian emigrants. There is an active language smoking policy with the purpose of keeping loanwords out of the language unless they can be assimilated into Icelandic sound and inflectional conditions. From 1999, Danish was replaced by English as the first foreign language, but it is still mandatory to learn a Scandinavian language – Danish, Norwegian or Swedish – as a second foreign language. For culture and traditions of Iceland, please check aparentingblog.

Iceland Geography