|Area||7,900 km2 (3,100 sq mi)|
|Thickness||380 m (1,250 ft) average|
Vatnajökull,[a] (sometimes translated as Vatna Glacier in English) is the largest and most voluminous ice cap in Iceland, and the largest in area in Europe after the Severny Island ice cap of Novaya Zemlya. It is in the south-east of the island, covering approximately 8% of the country.
With an area of 7,900 km², Vatnajökull is the largest ice cap in Europe by volume (about 3,000 km³) and area (not counting the still larger Severny Island ice cap of Novaya Zemlya, Russia, which may be regarded as in the extreme northeast of Europe). On 7 June 2008, it became a part of the Vatnajökull National Park.
The average thickness of the ice is 380 m (1,250 ft), with a maximum thickness of 950 m (3,120 ft). Iceland's highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur (2,109.6 m (6,921 ft)), is in the southern periphery of Vatnajökull, near Skaftafell National Park.
Under the ice cap, as under many of the glaciers of Iceland, there are several volcanoes. Eruptions from these volcanoes have led to the development of large pockets of water beneath the ice, which may burst the weakened ice and cause a jökulhlaup (glacial lake outburst flood). During the last ice age, numerous volcanic eruptions occurred under Vatnajökull, creating many subglacial eruptions.
In more modern times, the volcanoes continue to erupt beneath the glaciers, resulting in many documented floods. One jökulhlaup in 1934 caused the release of 15 km3 (3.6 cu mi) of water over the course of several days. The volcanic lake Grímsvötn was the source of a large jökulhlaup in 1996. There was also a considerable but short-lived eruption of the volcano under these lakes at the beginning of November 2004. On 21 May 2011 a volcanic eruption started in Grímsvötn in Vatnajökull National Park at around 7 p.m. The plume reached as up to 17 kilometres (11 mi).
An Icelandic older name for Vatnajökull was Klofajökull, which is known from eighteenth-century sources such as the writings of Eggert Ólafsson and Bjarni Pálsson. In September 1950, a Douglas DC-4 operated by the private airline Loftleiðir crash-landed on the Vatnajökull glacier. The entire six-person crew survived. A rescue operation was launched after the crew managed to send a distress signal on the fourth day. The crew and the rescue team walked the 34 km to safety.
The glacier was used as the setting for the opening sequence (set in Siberia) of the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill, in which Bond (played for the last time by Roger Moore) eliminated a host of armed villains before escaping in a submarine to Alaska. Several other films, including another in the Bond franchise, have been filmed on or using Jökulsárlón, the terminal lake of the Breiðamerkurjökull outlet from Vatnajökull.
Vatnajökull has around 30 outlet glaciers flowing from the ice cap. The Icelandic term for glacier is "jökull", and so is the term for outlet glacier. Given below is a list of outlet glaciers flowing from Vatnajökull, sorted by the four administrative territories of Vatnajökull National Park. This is not a complete list.
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- "The Gjálp eruption in Vatnajökull". Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland.
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- Svavar Sigmundsson. Hversu áreiðanlegar heimildir eru fyrir því að Vatnajökull hafi kallast Klofajökull fyrr á tímum? Vísindavefurinn, 31 August 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2019. http://visindavefur.is/svar.php?id=52708.
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- "General information map". Vatnajökull National Park. Archived from the original on 10 June 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
- Icelandic pronunciation: [ˈvaʰtnaˌjœːkʏtl̥]
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