1. What are the major physical features of the country you chose?
Iceland was formed by the spreading of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an area where the plates below the ocean, the North American and Eurasian plates, are moving apart. Hot magma rises and forms a plume, which pushed the island above the surface of the water. There are many volcanoes which continue to increase Iceland’s land mass. There are also geysers due to the land’s geological activity. Earthquakes are relatively common.
Iceland is located just south of the Arctic Circle (one of its islands is on the Circle itself), and 63% of its total land mass is tundra. The surface is 14% water, in the form of lakes and glaciers. Only about 23% of the country has plant life. This is why the eruption of one of the volcanoes, which produces ash that blocks sunlight, has historically caused famines.
Iceland has many glaciers as well as fjords that were created by glaciers. The central part of the island, which is primarily mountains, sand and lava, is very cold and dry.
2. Describe the climate of the country you chose.
In spite of its nearness to the Arctic Circle, Iceland has a relatively moderate, though cool, climate. One reason for this is the North Atlantic Current, which is warm, preventing ice from forming on the coasts. Average summer temperatures are 50° F for highs, 38° for lows. In winter, highs are usually just above freezing, with lows in the 20s (°F). The north coast is cooler and drier than the south coast, which is often windy. The area called the Central Highlands is the coldest.
3. How does the climate and major physical features impact the distribution of the population?
Due to the temperature and composition of the Central Highlands (cold, mountainous, volcanic), people are unable to live there. The population is clustered on the coasts (especially the western coast) and on the smaller islands. As a result, Iceland has a much smaller population for its size than any other European country.
4. How does the climate and major physical features impact the economy of the country?
Fishing and whaling were essential economic activities in the past, and fishing is still important to many of the island’s people. This is not surprising since most people live on the coasts. However, the country also has aluminum, silicon, and agriculture industries. More recently, Iceland has begun to develop new industry such as tourism and biotechnology. Ecotourism, which encourages visitors to make low impact trips to natural sites, is especially popular in Iceland, probably because population density is low and much of the environment has been kept in good condition.