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Melting glaciers

Glaciers cover around 10% of Iceland. After 1890, most glaciers began to retreat and since the year 2000 the outlet glaciers have retreated exceptionally fast, and their mass loss is among the highest recorded in the world. Due to climate change the glaciers will continue to melt and retreat and they could lose half of their volume by 2100. After 200 years, only small ice caps will remain on the highest mountains.

Melting glaciers - the project

This website is part of the project Icelandic Glaciers – a natural laboratory to study climate change, Melting Glaciers for short. The Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources has appointed the Vatnajökull National Park in cooperation with the Icelandic Meteorological Office to implement the project, in collaboration with the South East Iceland Nature Research Center and the Institute of Earth Sciences of the University of Iceland. The goal of the project, which is a part of the government’s climate change agenda, is to increase awareness about climate change and the associated consequences for glaciers in Iceland and elsewhere.

News of Icelandic glaciers

A newsletter is published yearly with updates from the glaciers in Iceland that have retreated rapidly for a quarter of a century, and glacier downwasting is one of the most obvious consequences of a warming climate in the country. In this newsletter, glacier changes since about 1900 are described briefly along with the results of monitoring of glacier termini, glacier mass balance and crustal movements induced by glacier changes in recent years. Updated maps of glacier outlines in the fall of 2021 and updated mass balance time series are presented.

Glaciers & climate change

Global surface temperatures increased by 0.8°C on average during the 20th century and twice as much in the Arctic and sub-polar areas.


Glacial ice s composed of ice crystals, snow, air, water and sediments. Glaciers form when more snow accumulates over the year than melts during the summer. Here you can learn how glaciers form and everything from crevasses to subglacial eruptions including facts about Vatnajökull glacier.

Glaciological research

Researching the glacier and weather tells us about the past and the future. It is important work to monitor the glaciers and some of the work has even been carried out by volunteers from the Iceland Glaciological Society since 1903.

Want to know more about glaciers?