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Geography, Weather, & Wildlife of Iceland

Geography

Icelandic Geography - Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Iceland is an island between the Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean. It is fairly isolated; its closest neighbors are Greenland to the west and the Faroe Islands to the southeast (both governed by Denmark).

Geographically, Iceland is a country formed by volcanic activity and thus is fairly mountainous. However, it also has a long coastline and numerous glacial fields. Between the ocean, volcanoes, and glaciers, the country is very unique and diverse geographically and geologically. The entire island is very sparsely populated outside of Reykjavik.

Weather

Icelandic Geography - Northern lights
Northern lights

Despite Iceland's north latitude, the country is fairly temperate due to the North Atlantic Ocean gulf stream and the volcanic activity just beneath the surface. However, when currents from the northwest come in, temperatures can cool quickly and dramatically.

The average winter temperature in Reykjavik is right around the freezing point (31° F (0° C) as days are short and fog from the Atlantic can come in quickly, making it feel much cooler. In the north of Iceland temperatures tend to be lower, but most precipitation remains in the south, including much snow at elevation on the mountains.

Summer temperatures don't get overly warm, reaching daily highs of about 55° F (13° C) in Reykjavik. Days are long though and the clouds are infrequent during this time making it feel slightly warmer.

Wildlife

Icelandic Geography - Steam vent
Steam vent

The only native mammal to Iceland is the fox, however with human settlement, plenty of other mammals have been introduced, including reindeer and small creatures like mice and mink. On the other hand, fish are plentiful as the island is surrounded by water and divided by rivers, providing all sea life from the North Atlantic Ocean to venture to the area while freshwater fish also abound.

Birds, like fish, are very common on the island, primarily as a summer breeding ground for dozens of species. These bird species are primarily water fowls that migrate south during the winter. Iceland has no amphibians or reptiles.

This page was last updated: March, 2013