Iceland, Island state in the North Atlantic, between 63 ° 24 ′ lat. N and the Polar Circle, and between 13 ° 30 ′ and 24 ° 25 ′ long. O. It is more than 800 km from the northern coasts of Scotland and a thousand km from those of Norway; to the W the Denmark Channel, nearly 300 km wide, separates it from Greenland.
- Physical characteristics
The ‘ Iceland (along with other islands such as the Azores, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha) constitutes the emerged part of the Mid-Atlantic ridge. The reliefs that constitute it are represented by volcanoes that extend in the NE-SW direction. Its formation dates back to the Tertiary: radiometric dating carried out on the most ancient lavas gave an age of about 16 million years. Volcanic activity is still very intense. Among the Icelandic volcanoes, the highest is Öraefajökull (2119 m); to the South the best known is the Hekla (1491 m), while in the central area there are the Trölla dyngja (1460 m) and the Askja (1510 m). The landscape is made up of extensive plateaus, with rather carved valleys that often reach the coast. Only on the southern side, the coast is almost everywhere low and sandy. The largest glaciers (locally jökull) are Vatnajökull (8500 km 2), Hofsjökull and Langjökull. ● The rivers are short, the longest being the Thjórsá (210 km). Often they form, on the edge of the lava plateaus or near the coasts, high waterfalls (Hai waterfall, on Thjórsá, 120 m; Hengi, on Fljotsdal, 115 m). THERE. it has many lakes, the largest of which is the Thingvallavatn (120 km 2, prof. 116 m). The climate is mainly of a cold oceanic type, rather mild in relation to the high latitude, also due to the influence of a branch of the north-Atlantic warm currents; but it becomes rigid, with almost polar characters, inside and to the NW. The rainfall, less than 1000 mm per year on the southern and eastern coasts (Reykjavík, 870 mm), exceeds 3000 mm on the slopes of some hills. ● Vascular plants have 435 species; in the southern plains three quarters of the species are common with northern and central Europe, while in the highlands and along the northern coast two thirds are arctic plants. Low shrub willow bushes with dwarf birch trees; meadows and pastures, interrupted by marshes, cover the valleys; the moor also has a great extension, rich in lichens, including the note Cetraria islandica (Iceland lichen); the only fruits found on the island are raspberries and blueberries. The fauna is poor in mammals. The avifauna has about 100 species. Missing Reptiles and Amphibians; few freshwater fishes. Numerous insects.
The annual demographic increase is equal to 0.7%, a high value for a northern European country and essentially due to a singularly high birth rate (about 13.4 ‰). The population is distributed in absolute prevalence in the south-western coastal regions; 90% is urbanized and almost 60% is concentrated in the capital, the only important economic and cultural center of the country, and in the other two major urban centers, Hafnarfjördur and Kópavogur. ● The state religion, followed by the great majority of the population, is the Evangelical-Lutheran one; a few hundred Catholics.
- Economic conditions
Poor in natural resources, the Iceland, thanks to an efficient economic and political organization, has reached a very high standard of living, the per capita income is one of the highest in the world. However, in 2008 the international banking crisis heavily involved the Iceland, which in previous years had seen a great expansion of the sector, with the opening of the financial market to foreign investments. ● The fishing activity directly occupies 6-7% of the assets (and indirectly approximately the same number, employed in related industrial activities). The most fished species are those typical of temperate-cold seas (herring, Cod). After fishing, the first natural source of income is represented by geothermal energy in which the Iceland occupies a pioneering position, as approximately 7% of the total electricity is produced by geothermal power plants. For heating the Iceland it also uses hot springs, shower heads and geysers. The cold and humid climate allows the cultivation of a few plants, among which the most widespread is the potato (13,800 t in 2006), and vegetables and fruit plants in the greenhouse, where it is possible to use water from hot springs. The development of forage crops is noteworthy, feeding a fair number of livestock, especially sheep (451,600 head). The industry, concentrated almost exclusively in the Reykjavík area, is mainly food, but there are also cement factories, alumina factories and textile factories. ● There are no railways, but a good road network (13,000 km) ensures communications between the various parts of the country, to which an efficient air network also contributes. The trade balance is slightly in deficit. Exports are made up of about 70% of fishery products; the highly diversified imports include almost all capital and consumer goods. Business relations are intense with the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. The income from tourism has assumed considerable importance.
Icelandic belongs to the western Nordic group of Germanic languages and originates from the language imported by Norwegian settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries. settled on the island. It is divided chronologically into four periods: archaic, from the 10th to the 12th century; classical, from about 1150 to 1350; middle, up to the middle of the 16th century; and modern, starting with Oddur Gottskálksson’s translation of the New Testament (1540). The relative isolation of the Iceland from the rest of the Nordic world it determined a progressive differentiation from Norwegian and made Icelandic the most conservative of the Scandinavian languages in terms of spelling, grammar and vocabulary. The alphabet used is the Latin one, enriched with two signs from the runes: þ and đ often rendered in dictionaries with the digraphs th and dh. Icelandic preserves the genders (masculine, feminine and neuter) of the names,