Facts about Vatnajökull

Area: 7700 km2 (2017)

Volume: 3000 km3 (~2017), which is equivalent to one cm rise in global sea level

Thickness of ice layer if Vatnajökull was spread over the whole country: ca. 30 m

Water equivalent: 15x the mean annual precipitation on all of Iceland, or 1.7 billion typical swimming pools

Distance from west to east: 143 km (Tungnaárjökull – Öxarfellsjökull)

Distance from south to north: 98 km (Stórhöfðajökull – Öræfajökull – Dyngjujökull)

Highest peak: Hvannadalshnjúkur 2110 m

Lowest terminus: Breiðamerkurjökull 260 m below sea level

Maximum thickness: 950 m (in the valley between Kverkfjöll and Öræfajökull)

Maximum annual mass balance: 6–8 m water equivalent (10–13 m snow layer), measured on Öræfajökull during 1993–1998

Weight of Vatnajökull: 3000 million tons, pushing the crust down ca 100 m below the middle of the ice cap

Number of outlet glaciers: About 40

Number of volcanic systems: Seven (Öræfajökull, Bárðarbunga, Kverkfjöll, Grímsvötn, Þórðarhyrna, Hamarinn, Esjufjöll)

Number of huts: Six (Grímsfjall (3), Esjufjöll, Goðahnjúkar, Kverkfjöll)

 

Table 2.1. Areal extent of Vatnajökull ice cap at various times. Source: Icelandic Meteorological Office and the Institute of Earth Sciences University of Iceland.

Year

Area

(km2)

~1890

 

8723

1945

 

8294

1989

 

8193

2000

 

8190

2010

 

7967

2017

 

7676

 

Areal extent of Vatnajökull ice cap at various times. Source: Icelandic Meteorological Office and the Institute of Earth Sciences University of Iceland.

Vatnajökull ice cap and main topographical names. The glacier extent at various times is shown; gray (maximum extent), lime green line (1945), light green (2000), purple line (2014). Surge type glaciers and indicated with dark green colours. The calderas of the central volcanoes are shown with triangles, and the dotted line high up on the glacier is the snowline (estimated equilibrium line) in year 2000. Source: Sigurðsson, Williams, Víkingsson (2017).

 

Map showing the outline of the National park and the volcanic systems. Source: Modified after Jóhannesson and Sæmundsson (2009).

Map showing the outline of the National park and the volcanic systems. Source: Modified after Jóhannesson and Sæmundsson (2009).

 

Vatnajökull viewed from space, 1 November 2017. Notice the prominent calderas of Bárðarbunga (upper left), Grímsvötn (middle left) and Öræfajökull (bottom middle). Source: https://landsat.usgs.gov/nasa.

Vatnajökull viewed from space, 1 November 2017. Notice the prominent calderas of Bárðarbunga (upper left), Grímsvötn (middle left) and Öræfajökull (bottom middle). Source: https://landsat.usgs.gov/nasa.