Location: Northern Europe, island between the Greenland
Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the UK
Geographic coordinates: 65 00 N, 18 00 W
Map references: Arctic Region
total: 103,000 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Kentucky
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 4,988 km
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current;
mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers
Terrain: mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks,
icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,119 m
Natural resources: fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite
arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 23%
forests and woodland: 1%
other: 76% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: NA sq km
Natural hazards: earthquakes and volcanic activity
Environment - current issues: water pollution from fertilizer
runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification,
Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping,
Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands,
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic
Pollutants, Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note: strategic location between Greenland and
Europe; westernmost European country; more land covered by glaciers
than in all of continental Europe
Iceland located, in the North Atlantic Ocean, about 300 km east
of Greenland and about 1,000 km west of Norway. Iceland has an area
of 103,000 sq km (39,800 sq mi).
In shape Iceland is generally elliptic, and the coastline, with
a total length of 4,990 km (3,100) mi), is deeply indented, especially
in the west and north.
Iceland has a relatively mild and equable climate, despite its high
altitude and its proximity to the Arctic. Because of oceanic influences,
notably the North Atlantic Drift (a continuation of the Gulf Stream),
climatic conditions are moderate in all sections of the island.
The mean annual temperature at Reykjavνk is about 5° C (about 41°
F), with a range from -1° C (31° F) in January to 11° C (52° F)
in July. In the northwestern, northern, and eastern coastal regions,
subject to the effects of polar currents and drifting ice, temperatures
are generally lower.
Background: Iceland boasts the oldest surviving parliament
in the world, the Althing, established in 930.
Subsequently this Nordic island, whose small population has largely
depended on fishing and sheep-herding for a living, came under the
rule of Norway and then Denmark.
It gained home rule in 1874 and full independence in 1944. Literacy,
longevity, and social cohesion are topnotch by world standards.
Tensions continue with Norway, Russia, and other nearby countries
over fishing rights in the North Atlantic and adjacent seas.
Settled by Norwegians and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants
during the late 9th and 10th centuries, Iceland boasts the world's
oldest parliament, the Althing, established in 930. Independent
for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and
Limited home rule was granted in 1874 and complete independence
attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, income, and social cohesion
are first-rate by world standards.