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Surveying fire and ice: First map of all of Iceland's glaciers and subglacier volcanic calderas released

19 September 2013

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For the first time, all of Iceland's glaciers are shown on a single map, produced by the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), in collaboration with the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Iceland Geosurvey. The map is the first to incorporate historical data and coverage from aerial photographs and remote sensing satellites, such as Landsat and SPOT, to show the change in the areal extent of glaciers during the past century.

Iceland has about 300 glaciers throughout the country, and altogether, 269 glaciers, outlet glaciers and internal ice caps are named. The glaciers that lack names are small and largely newly revealed, exposed by melting of snow pack due to warmer summer temperatures. The number of identified glaciers has nearly doubled at the beginning of the 21st century.

"Iceland's glaciers have also been revealed to be quite dynamic during the past century," said Oddur Sigurdsson, the senior author of the new map and a glaciologist with the IMO. "At the maximum of the Little Ice Age (about 1890 in Iceland), its glaciers reached their greatest areal extent before receding to their present-day positions, interrupted with a few cooler periods during this century-long recession. Iceland's glaciers continue their retreat and lose volume; its ice caps are losing an average of 1 m of ice each year from their surfaces."

Source: United States Geological Survey (USGS)

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