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About Iceland. Weather in Iceland. Icelandic Climate. Names in Iceland. Republic of Iceland.

The Republic of Iceland is an island country located in the North Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103,000 km². Its capital and largest city is Reykjavík.

Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is volcanically and geologically active on a large scale; this defines the landscape. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterized by sand fields, mountains and glaciers, while many big glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Iceland has a temperate climate relative to its latitude and provides a habitable environment and nature.

According to tradition recorded in Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson became the first permanent Norwegian settler on the island. Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. Over the next centuries, people of Nordic origin settled in Iceland. Until the 20th century, the Icelandic population relied on fisheries and agriculture, and was from 1262 to 1918 a part of the Norwegian, and later the Danish monarchies. In the 20th century, Iceland´s economy and welfare system developed quickly. In recent decades, Iceland has implemented free trade in the European Economic Area and diversified from fishing to new economic fields in services, finance and various industries.

Today, Iceland has some of the world´s highest levels of economic and civil freedoms. In 2007, Iceland was ranked as the most developed country in the world by the United Nations´ Human Development Index. It was also the fourth most productive country per capita, and one of the most egalitarian, as rated by the Gini coefficient. Icelanders have a rich culture and heritage, such as cuisine and poetry and the medieval Icelandic Sagas are internationally renowned. Iceland is a member of the UN, NATO, EFTA, EEA, UEFA, and OECD. Iceland is the sole partner of the Faro Islands signatory to the Hoyvík Agreement.

Iceland has been especially badly affected by the current world financial crisis. The nation´s ongoing economic crisis has caused significant unrest and made Iceland the first western country to borrow from the International Monetary Fund since 1976. In February 2009 a minority government took office, headed by Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the world´s first openly gay head of government in modern times.

Geography. Iceland is the world´s 18th largest island, and Europe´s second largest island following Great Britain. The main island is 101,826 km² but the entire country is 103,000 km² (39,768.5 sq mi) in size, of which 62.7% is tundra. Lakes and glaciers cover 14.3%; only 23% is vegetated. The largest lakes are Þórisvatn (Reservoir): 83–88 km² (32-34 sq mi) and Þingvallavatn: 82 km² (32 sq mi); other important lakes include Lögurinn and Mývatn. Öskjuvatn is the deepest lake at 220 m (722 ft).

Many fjords punctuate its 4,970 km long coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated because the island´s interior, the Highlands of Iceland, is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand and mountains. The major towns are the capital Reykjavík, Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður, Reykjanesbær, where the international airport is located, and Akureyri. The island of Grímsey on the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland.

Iceland has four national parks: Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, Skaftafell National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Þingvellir National Park.

Climate. The climate of Iceland´s coast is subpolar oceanic. The warm North Atlantic Current ensures generally higher annual temperatures than in most places of similar latitude in the world. Regions in the world with similar climate include the Aleutian Islands, Alaska Peninsula and Tierra del Fuego although these regions are closer to the equator. Despite its proximity to the Arctic, the island´s coasts remain ice-free through the winter. Ice incursions are rare, the last having occurred on the north coast in 1969.

There are some variations in the climate between different parts of the island. Very generally speaking, the south coast is warmer, wetter and windier than the north. Low-lying inland areas in the north are the most arid. Snowfall in winter is more common in the north than the south. The Central Highlands are the coldest part of the country.

The highest air temperature recorded was 30.5 °C (86.9 °F) on 22 June, 1939 at Teigarhorn on the southeastern coast. The lowest was -38 °C (-36.4 °F) on 22 January, 1918 at Grímsstaðir and Möðrudalur in the northeastern hinterland. The temperature records for Reykjavík are 26.2 °C (79.2 °F) on 30 July 2008, and -24.5 °C (-12.1 °F) on 21 January 1918.

Mean daily maximum and minimum temperatures (°C) (1961–1990)
Location Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec   All
Reykjavík 1.9 2.8 3.2 5.7 9.4 11.7 13.3 13.0 10.1 6.8 3.4 2.2 High 7.0
-3.0 -2.1 -2.0 0.4 3.6 6.7 8.3 7.9 5.0 2.2 -1.3 -2.8 Low 1.9
Akureyri 0.9 1.7 2.1 5.4 9.5 13.2 14.5 13.9 9.9 5.9 2.6 1.3 High 6.7
-5.5 -4.7 -4.2 -1.5 2.3 6.0 7.5 7.1 3.5 0.4 -3.5 -5.1 Low 0.2

Language. Iceland´s official written and spoken language is Icelandic, a North Germanic language descended from Old Norse. It has changed less from Old Norse than the other Nordic languages, has preserved more verb and noun inflection, and has to a considerable extent developed new vocabulary based on native roots rather than borrowings from other languages. It is the only living language to retain the runic letter Þ. The closest living language to Icelandic is Faroese. In education, the use of Icelandic Sign Language for Iceland´s deaf community is regulated by the National Curriculum Guide.

English is widely spoken as a secondary language. Danish is also widely understood. Studying both these languages is a mandatory part of the compulsory school curriculum. Other commonly spoken languages are Spanish, German, French, Norwegian and Swedish. Danish is mostly spoken in a way largely comprehensible to Swedes and Norwegians – it is often referred to as "Scandinavian" in Iceland.

Icelandic name. Rather than using family names as is the custom in all mainland European nations, the Icelanders use patronymics. The patronymic follows the person´s given name, e.g. Ólafur Jónsson ("Ólafur, son of Jón") or Katrín Karlsdóttir ("Katrín, daughter of Karl"). It is for this reason that the Icelandic telephone directory is listed alphabetically by first name rather than surname.

2008-2009 economic crisis. Iceland is especially hard hit by the ongoing late 2000s recession, because of the fall of its banking system and a subsequent economic crisis. Before the crash of the three largest banks in Iceland, Glitnir, Landsbanki and Kaupthing, their combined debt exceeded approximately six times the nation´s gross domestic product of €14 billion ($19 billion). In October 2008, the Icelandic parliament passed emergency legislation to minimize the impact of the financial crisis. The Financial Supervisory Authority of Iceland used permission granted by the emergency legislation to take over the domestic operations of the three largest banks. Icelandic officials, including central bank governor Davíð Oddsson, stated that the state did not intend to take over any of the banks´ foreign debts or assets. Instead, new banks were established around the domestic operations of the banks, and the old banks will be run into bankruptcy. The Icelandic economic crisis has been a matter of great concern in international media.

On 28 October, 2008, the Icelandic government raised interest rates to 18%, a move which was forced in part by the terms of acquiring a loan from the IMF. After the rate hike, trading on the Icelandic króna finally resumed on the open market, with valuation at around 250 ISK per Euro, less than one-third the value of the 1:70 exchange rate during most of 2008, and a significant drop from the 1:150 exchange ratio of the week before. Iceland has appealed to Nordic countries for an additional €4 billion in aid to avert the continuing crisis.

On 26 January, 2009, the coalition government collapsed due to the public dissent over the handling of the financial crisis. A new left-wing government was formed a week later and immediately set about removing Central Bank governor Davíð Oddsson and his aides from the bank through changes in law. Oddsson was removed on 26 February, 2009.

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