Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Iceland | Introduction

EuropeIcelandIceland | Introduction

If you like weird and barren landscapes, Iceland is a breathtakingly gorgeous location to visit. The quantity of daylight changes significantly by season due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle. In June, the sun sets momentarily each night, but it does not become completely dark before rising again. Days and nights are about equal length during the March and September equinoxes, as they are everywhere else in the globe. In December, there are almost 20 hours of darkness. Summer is unquestionably the greatest season to visit, yet even then, visitor traffic is quite low. The midnight sun is a stunning sight that should not be missed. When the sun is still high in the sky at 11 p.m., it’s easy to lose sight of time. However, visiting in the early or late winter may be a pleasant surprise. The sun shines from around 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in late January, costs are cheaper than in the peak season, and the snow-covered scenery is hauntingly beautiful. (However, some locations are closed throughout the winter.)

People

In the 9th century AD, the first people to inhabit Iceland were Nordic and Irish people. According to legend, Ingólfur Arnarson, a Norwegian Viking, was the first permanent resident and lived where Reykjavik currently sits. It’s believed that Irish monks had been living on the island for a few years before this. Icelanders still speak a language similar to that of the Vikings.

In the past ten years, Iceland has welcomed a large number of immigrants. The number of immigrants has doubled in the past five years. The majority of these individuals (mostly from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia) are looking for work. Immigrants currently account for considerably over 10% of Iceland’s population, making it the country with the highest percentage of immigrants after Norway and Sweden. Icelanders also utilize the ancient Norse patronymic system, which was used in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and the Faroe Islands until their governments determined that people should choose a surname in the 19th century.

Geography

In the 9th century AD, the first people to inhabit Iceland were Nordic and Irish people. According to legend, Ingólfur Arnarson, a Norwegian Viking, was the first permanent resident and lived where Reykjavik currently sits. It’s believed that Irish monks had been living on the island for a few years before this. Icelanders still speak a language similar to that of the Vikings.

In the past ten years, Iceland has welcomed a large number of immigrants. The number of immigrants has doubled in the past five years. The majority of these individuals (mostly from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia) are looking for work. Immigrants currently account for considerably over 10% of Iceland’s population, making it the country with the highest percentage of immigrants after Norway and Sweden. Icelanders also utilize the ancient Norse patronymic system, which was used in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and the Faroe Islands until their governments determined that people should choose a surname in the 19th century.

Geology

Iceland is a geologically young country that lies on the Iceland hotspot as well as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs straight through it. Because of its position, the island is geologically active, with many volcanoes, including Hekla, Eldgjá, Herubrei, and Eldfell. In 1783–1784, Laki’s volcanic eruption triggered a famine that killed almost a quarter of the island’s inhabitants. Furthermore, for many months following the eruption, dust clouds and haze appeared across much of Europe, as well as portions of Asia and Africa, and climates in other regions were impacted.

Many geysers may be found in Iceland, notably Geysir (from which the English term “geyser”) and Strokkur, which erupts every 8–10 minutes. After a period of inactivity, Geysir began erupting anew in 2000, after a series of earthquakes. Since then, Geysir has been calmer and does not erupt as often.

Most people have access to cheap hot water, heating, and electricity because to the extensive supply of geothermal power and the hydroelectricity generated by numerous rivers and waterfalls. The island is mainly made up of basalt, a low-silica lava formed by effusive volcanism similar to that seen in Hawaii. Iceland, on the other hand, has a wide range of volcanic forms (composite and fissure), several of which produce highly developed lavas like rhyolite and andesite. There are hundreds of volcanoes in Iceland, including about 30 active volcanic systems.

Surtsey, one of the world’s newest islands, is part of Iceland. It emerged above the water in a succession of volcanic eruptions between November 8, 1963, and June 5, 1968, and was named after Surtr. Only scientists working on the development of new life are permitted to visit the island.

For the first time since 1821, a volcano in Iceland’s south, Eyjafjallajökull, erupted on March 21, 2010, causing 600 people to leave their homes. On April 14, further eruptions caused hundreds of people to flee their homes. The resulting cloud of volcanic ash disrupted air traffic throughout Europe significantly.

On May 21, 2011, another major eruption occurred. This time it was the Grmsvötn volcano, which lies under the heavy ice of Vatnajökull, Europe’s biggest glacier. Grmsvötn is one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes, and its eruption was much more powerful than the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010, with ash and lava thrown 20 kilometers (12 miles) into the sky, forming a huge cloud.

Hvannadalshnkur (64°00′N 16°39′W) has the highest height in Iceland at 2,110 meters (6,923 feet).

Climate

Iceland’s coast has a subpolar oceanic environment. The warm North Atlantic Current means that yearly temperatures are typically higher than in most other locations of comparable latitude across the globe. The Aleutian Islands, Alaska Peninsula, and Tierra del Fuego all have comparable climates, although being closer to the equator. The island’s coastlines remain ice-free throughout the winter, despite its closeness to the Arctic. Ice intrusions are uncommon, with the most recent one occurring in 1969 on the north shore.

The climate changes depending on where you are on the island. The south coast is often warmer, wetter, and windier than the north. The Central Highlands are the country’s coldest region. The most dry regions in the north are low-lying inland areas. In the winter, snowfall is more frequent in the north than in the south.

On June 22, 1939, in Teigarhorn on the southern coast, the maximum air temperature was 30.5 °C (86.9 °F). On 22 January 1918, the lowest temperature was 38 degrees Celsius (36.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in Grmsstair and Mörudalur in the northeastern hinterland. Reykjavk’s temperature records are 26.2 °C (79.2 °F) on July 30, 2008, and 24.5 °C (12.1 °F) on January 21, 1918.

Biodiversity

In Iceland, there are about 1,300 identified insect species, which is a small number when compared to other nations (over one million species have been described worldwide). The Arctic fox, which arrived on the island at the end of the ice age by crossing across the frozen sea, was the sole native land animal when humans arrived. Bats have been transported to the island by the winds on rare occasions, but they are unable to reproduce there. Polar bears sometimes visit Iceland from Greenland, but they are just passing through and there are no Icelandic populations. On the island, there are no native or free-living reptiles or amphibians.

Iceland is part of the Arctic province of the Circumboreal Region, which is part of the Boreal Kingdom. Approximately three-quarters of the island is devoid of vegetation; plant life is mostly grassland, which is grazed by cattle on a regular basis. The northern birch (Betula pubescens) is the most common tree native to Iceland, along with aspens (Populus tremula), rowans (Sorbus aucuparia), common junipers (Juniperus communis), and other smaller trees, including willows, which used to create forests over most of the country.

The island was heavily wooded when it was first inhabited. Ari the Wised described it in the slendingabók as “forested from mountain to sea coast” in the late 12th century. The isolated environment with thin, volcanic soils and restricted species variety was severely disrupted by permanent human settlement. Throughout history, the woods have been extensively used for fuel and lumber. Deforestation, climate degradation during the Little Ice Age, and overgrazing by settlers’ sheep resulted in the erosion of vital topsoil. Many farms have been abandoned in recent years. Soil erosion of 18,000 km2 (6,900 sq mi) is affecting three-quarters of Iceland’s 100,000 square kilometers, rendering the land unusable. There are currently just a few tiny birch stands in isolated reserves. The number of trees has risen as a consequence of fresh forest planting, however the outcome does not compare to the original woods. Introduced species have been found in some of the planted woods. A sitka spruce planted in 1949 near Kirkjubjarklaustur is Iceland’s tallest tree, measuring 25.2 meters (83 feet) in 2013.

Iceland’s animals include Icelandic sheep, cattle, chickens, goats, the strong Icelandic horse, and the Icelandic Sheepdog, all of which are descendants of European animals. Arctic foxes, mink, mice, rats, rabbits, and reindeer are examples of wild animals. Polar bears come to the island on icebergs from Greenland on occasion. Two polar bears came in the same month in June 2008. Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and harbor seals are two types of marine animals (Phoca vitulina). The ocean waters around Iceland are home to a variety of fish, and the fishing sector is a significant component of Iceland’s economy, accounting for about half of the country’s total exports. Birds, particularly seabirds, play a significant role in Iceland’s animal life. Its sea cliffs are home to puffins, skuas, and kittiwakes.

Commercial whaling and scientific whale hunts take place on a regular basis. Since 1997, whale watching has been a significant component of Iceland’s economy.

Demographics

Iceland’s first inhabitants were of Nordic and Gaelic descent. Literary evidence from the settlement period, as well as subsequent scientific investigations like as blood type and genetic tests, support this theory. According to one genetics research, the majority of the male migrants were of Nordic descent, while the majority of the female settlers were of Gaelic descent, implying that many of Iceland’s founders were actually Norwegian Viking warriors who brought Gaelic slaves with them.

There are comprehensive genealogical records going back to the late 17th century in Iceland, as well as incomplete documents dating back to the Age of Settlement. DeCODE genetics, a biopharmaceutical firm, has sponsored the development of a genealogical database that will include all of Iceland’s known residents. Given Iceland’s population’s relative isolation, it sees the database, dubbed slendingabók, as a useful tool for undertaking genetic illness research.

From the time of colonization until the mid-nineteenth century, the island’s population is said to have fluctuated between 40,000 and 60,000 people. Cold winters, volcanic ash fall, and bubonic diseases all had a negative impact on the population at that period. Between 1500 and 1804, Iceland had 37 famine years. The first census was taken in 1703, and it showed a population of 50,358 people. The population dropped to about 40,000 during the catastrophic volcanic eruptions of the Laki volcano in 1783–1784. Since the mid-nineteenth century, improved living circumstances have resulted in a significant rise in population, from about 60,000 in 1850 to 320,000 in 2008. Iceland’s population is unusually young for a developed nation, with one in every five individuals being under the age of 14. Iceland is one of just a few European nations with a birth rate adequate for long-term population expansion, with a fertility rate of 2.1. (see table on the left).

In December 2007, 33,678 individuals (13.5 percent of the total population) in Iceland, including children of Icelandic parents residing abroad, were born abroad. Foreign citizenship was held by about 19,000 individuals (6 percent of the population). Polish people are by far the biggest minority group and still make up the majority of the foreign workforce. Around 8,000 Poles currently reside in Iceland, with 1,500 of them working at Fjarabygg, where they make up 75 percent of the workforce building the Fjararál aluminum factory. The recent rise in immigration has been attributed to a labor shortage caused by the growing economy at the time, as well as the removal of limitations on individuals moving from countries that were part of the European Union’s 2004 expansion. Large-scale building projects in Iceland’s east (see Kárahnjkar Hydropower Plant) have also brought in a large number of individuals who are only intended to remain for a short time. As a consequence of the Icelandic financial crisis in 2008, many Polish immigrants considered leaving.

The most heavily inhabited area of Iceland is in the southwest quadrant. It is also home to Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and the world’s northernmost national capital. Outside of the Greater Reykjavk region, the biggest towns are Akureyri and Reykjanesbr, the latter of which is quite near to the capital.

In the late 10th century, 500 Icelanders led by Erik the Red colonized Greenland amid the indigenous paleo-Eskimo people. Before 1500, the entire population reached a peak of approximately 5,000 people and established autonomous institutions. Greenlanders tried to establish a colony in Vinland, North America, but were forced to leave it due to animosity from the locals. In the 1870s, emigration to the United States and Canada started. According to the 2000 US census, there are over 40,000 individuals of Icelandic ancestry in Canada, whereas there are over 88,000 people of Icelandic descent in the United States.

Iceland is a highly secular society, and religious attendance is minimal, as it is in other Nordic countries. The figures above indicate administrative membership in religious organizations and may not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Iceland’s population. According to a survey conducted in 2001, 23% of the population was either atheist or agnostic. According to a Gallup survey done in 2012, 57 percent of Icelanders identified as “religious,” 31 percent as “non-religious,” and 10% as “convinced atheists,” putting Iceland among the top ten nations with the largest percentage of atheists in the world.

Economy

Iceland was the world’s seventh most productive nation per capita (US$54,858) in 2007, and the fifth most prolific by GDP at purchasing power parity ($40,112) in 2007. Domestically generated renewable energy sources account for around 85% of Iceland’s total primary energy supply. Iceland is the world’s biggest energy generator per capita because to plentiful hydropower and geothermal power. The 2016 Global Green Economy Index placed Iceland among the top ten greenest economies in the world as a consequence of its commitment to renewable energy. Iceland’s economy used to be highly reliant on fishing, which still accounts for 40% of export profits and employs 7% of the workforce. The economy is susceptible to falling fish populations and decreases in global prices for its major material exports, which include fish and fish products, aluminum, and ferrosilicon. Whaling has a long and illustrious history in Iceland. Iceland is still highly reliant on fishing, although its significance is waning, having dropped from 90% of exports in the 1960s to 40% in 2006.

Iceland was one of Europe’s poorest nations until the twentieth century. It is now one of the most developed nations in the planet. Iceland had been rated first in the United Nations’ Human Development Index report for 2007/2008 due to strong economic development, but due to the economic crisis, its HDI ranking had dropped to 14th position in 2011. Nonetheless, according to the 2011 Economist Intelligence Index, Iceland has the world’s second best quality of life. Iceland has one of the lowest rates of income disparity in the world, according to the Gini coefficient, and its HDI ranking rises to fifth place when corrected for inequality. Since the crisis, Iceland’s unemployment rate has steadily decreased, with 4.8 percent of the labor force jobless in June 2012, compared to 6.1 percent in 2011 and 8.1 percent in 2010.

Many political groups oppose Iceland’s entry into the EU, mainly because Icelanders are concerned about losing control of their natural resources (particularly fisheries). The Icelandic króna is the country’s official currency (ISK). The adoption of the Canadian dollar (CAD) is supported by almost 70% of Icelanders, more than any other currency in the world.

According to a Capacent Gallup survey published on March 5, 2010, 31% of respondents were in favor of adopting the euro, while 69 percent were against. A Gallup survey published in February 2012 showed that 67.4 percent of Icelanders would vote no in a referendum on EU membership.

In the past decade, Iceland’s economy has diversified into industrial and service sectors, including software development, biotechnology, and finance; industry accounts for around a quarter of economic activity, while services account for over 70%. Tourism is growing, particularly in ecotourism and whale-watching. Annually, Iceland gets approximately 1.1 million tourists, which is more than three times the population of the country. Potatoes, green vegetables (grown in greenhouses), mutton, and dairy products make up the majority of Iceland’s agricultural sector, which accounts for 5.4 percent of GDP. Borgartn in Reykjavk is the financial center, with a significant number of businesses and three investment banks. The Iceland Stock Exchange (ISE), Iceland’s stock exchange, was founded in 1985.

Iceland is rated 27th in the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, down from previous years but still among the world’s most free countries. It is ranked 29th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Index in 2016, down one spot from 2015. Iceland is the 11th most inventive nation in the world, according to the INSEAD Global Innovation Index. Iceland has a flat tax system, unlike other Western European countries: the primary personal income tax rate is a flat 22.75 percent, and when coupled with municipal taxes, the overall tax rate is no more than 35.7 percent, not counting the many deductions available. The corporation tax rate is a flat 18 percent, making it one of the world’s lowest. A value added tax is also in place, although the net wealth tax was abolished in 2006. The labor market is one of the freest in the world, and employment laws are reasonably liberal. Iceland has strong property rights, and it is one of the few nations where they are used to manage fisheries. Taxpayers, like those in other welfare states, pay different subsidies to one another, although at a lower rate than in other European nations.

Agricultural aid is the largest among OECD nations, despite low tax rates, and may be a barrier to structural reform. Furthermore, by OECD standards, health-care and education expenditures have low returns, notwithstanding recent advances in these sectors. Iceland’s currency and macroeconomic policy problems were emphasized in the OECD Economic Survey of Iceland 2008. In the spring of 2008, there was a currency crisis, and on October 6, trade in Iceland’s banks was halted as the government fought to rescue the economy. Iceland has made progress in many areas, including creating a sustainable fiscal policy and restoring the health of the financial sector, according to the most recent OECD assessment; however, challenges remain in making the fishing industry more efficient and sustainable, as well as improving monetary policy to combat inflation. Iceland’s public debt has reduced since the economic crisis, and it is now the world’s 31st largest in terms of national GDP as of 2015.

Economic contraction

Because of the collapse of its banking system and the ensuing economic crisis, Iceland was particularly severely affected by the Great Recession, which started in December 2007. Glitnir, Landsbanki, and Kaupthing, the country’s three biggest banks, had a combined debt of almost six times the country’s gross domestic product of €14 billion ($19 billion) prior to their collapse. The Icelandic parliament enacted emergency measures in October 2008 to mitigate the effects of the financial crisis. The Icelandic Financial Supervisory Authority utilized emergency legislation to take over the domestic operations of Iceland’s three biggest banks. Icelandic authorities, notably central bank governor Dav Oddsson, have indicated that the government has no intention of taking over the banks’ overseas loans or assets. Instead, new banks were formed to take over the banks’ domestic activities, and the old banks were forced into bankruptcy.

The Icelandic government increased interest rates to 18% on October 28, 2008 (from 7% in August 2010), a decision prompted in part by the conditions of obtaining a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Following the rate increase, open market trading of the Icelandic króna resumed, with a valuation of approximately 250 ISK per Euro, less than one-third of the 1:70 exchange rate seen during much of 2008, and a substantial decrease from the 1:150 exchange rate seen the week before. The Nordic nations agreed to give Iceland $2.5 billion on November 20, 2008.

The coalition government fell apart on January 26, 2009, as a result of popular outrage over how the financial crisis was handled. A week later, a new left-wing administration was established, and it went about ousting Central Bank governor Dav Oddsson and his associates from the bank via legislative amendments. Following demonstrations outside the Central Bank, Dav was dismissed on February 26, 2009.

Thousands of Icelanders have fled the nation since its demise, with many of them settling in Norway. In 2005, there were 293 individuals who migrated from Iceland to Norway; by 2009, the number had risen to 1,625. The conclusions of the Special Investigation Commission of the Icelandic Parliament were released in April 2010, showing the degree of control fraud in this crisis. Landsbanki has paid off approximately half of the Icesave loan by June 2012.

Iceland, according to Bloomberg, is on track to have 2% unemployment as a consequence of crisis-management choices taken in 2008, such as allowing banks to collapse.