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Iceland:
Geography

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Background
Definition
Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island's population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Limited home rule from Denmark was granted in 1874 and complete independence attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, income, and social cohesion are first-rate by world standards.
Location
Definition
Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the UK
Geographic coordinates
Definition
65 00 N, 18 00 W
Map references
Definition
Arctic Region
Area
Definition - World rank and map
total: 103,000 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km
Area - comparative
Definition
slightly smaller than Kentucky
Land boundaries
Definition
0 km
Coastline
Definition
4,970 km
Maritime claims
Definition
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate
Definition
temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers
Terrain
Definition
mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords
Elevation extremes
Definition
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,110 m (at Vatnajokull glacier)
Natural resources
Definition
fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite
Land use
Definition - World rank and map
arable land: 0.07%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 99.93% (2005)
Irrigated land
Definition
NA
Total renewable water resources
Definition
170 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Definition
total: 0.17 cu km/yr (34%/66%/0%)
per capita: 567 cu m/yr (2003)
Natural hazards
Definition
earthquakes and volcanic activity
Environment - current issues
Definition
water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment
Environment - international agreements
Definition
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Transboundary Air Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note
Definition
strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; Reykjavik is the northernmost national capital in the world; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe


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