by wjw on June 17, 2019

IMG_3868Here we are, just a few days from Midsummer, and the temperature is 7º Celsius (44 Fahrenheit), with a wicked cold wind.  That’s southeast Iceland for you.

This photograph was taken near the pleasant fishing town of Höfn (“Haven,” or “Port” if you like), which is currently suffering from a weird tertiary effect of global warming that I’m guessing no one ever predicted.

Behind the great big mountain in the photo is Vatnajökull, the world’s third-largest glacier after Antarctica and Greenland.  Like all glaciers Vatnajökull is melting as rapidly as it possibly can, and in the last few decades Icelandic glaciers have lost on average 50 meters of depth.

Something as large and heavy as Vatnajökull presses down on the country around it, and when the weight is removed the land springs upward.  (Finland, for example, is still rising after being squashed during the last Ice Age.)  As Vatnajökull melts, the land around it is rising, including the port of Höfn.  Which means the seas around it are falling, including in the tricky harbor entrance, which requires two right-angle turns to negotiate.

What with land appearing where it wasn’t before, it’s now very easy to run aground in the channel.  If the land gets much higher, there won’t be a channel at all.  (And the land hereabouts is rising at up to 1.4 inches per year.)

You’d think that the ocean rise would mitigate the effect, but the ocean isn’t rising fast enough, and with all respects to Höfn I hope it doesn’t.

I was surprised at how massive the rising area was, since Höfn isn’t next to the glacier or anything.

With such an extreme climate as Iceland, you might expect climate change to be more obvious here, and you’d be right.  Temperatures are rising faster than the IPCC model predicts.  For the first time ever, Iceland is now home to ticks.  (It’s still too cold for mosquitoes.)  Farmers are experimenting with new crops, including apples, which couldn’t have been grown here as little as fifteen years ago.

Iceland won’t turn into a tropical paradise anytime soon, but it’s becoming an involuntary lab for climate change, like most far northern latitudes.

At least they’ll have ticks.

Etaoin Shrdlu June 17, 2019 at 5:26 pm

44F? Sounds like they could use some more global warming.

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