Icelandic Town Rising From The Sea Due To Climate Change - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Icelandic Town Rising From The Sea Due To Climate Change

Published March 14, 2016

Photos by
Art Bicnick

A chain reaction caused and driven by climate change has made an Icelandic town take a significant rise in elevation in less than 20 years.

Höfn í Hornafirði is a town of some 2,200 people in southeast Iceland, resting on a thin spit of earth under the shadow of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier. RÚV reports that climate change has had a number of effects on the region, not least of all on the town itself.

According to studies conducted by the South East Iceland Nature Research Center of Breiðamerkurjökull, a glacier stretching off from Vatnajökull and very near to Höfn, the glacier has lost a tremendous amount of ice since 1890. Snævarr Guðmundsson, a specialist at the Center, likened the amount of ice being lost to the equivalent of 2,000 20-square-foot shipping containers full of ice disappearing every hour.

One result of this rapid melting is that glacial pressure on the earth decreases. This has caused Höfn to rise in elevation at an astonishing rate: about 20 centimetres since just 1997. In 50 years’ time, the town could rise by as much as half a metre.

In an effort to combat this, town council voted in favour of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 3% a year. Whether this move will make enough of a difference to slow the rise of the town from out of the sea is as yet undetermined.

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