Glacier mapping - IPY
Öræfajökull, August 2011.

Glacier mapping – IPY

International Polar Years


In collaboration with Icelandic and Nordic institutions IMO has been mapping all the major glaciers of Iceland and the smaller glaciers in Scandinavia and Greenland. Accurate models of glacier surfaces are useful for many different areas of research and also practical uses, the hydropower sector, for tourism and search and rescue on glaciers.

The IMO and the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland have been working on mapping the ice with airborne laser measurement (LiDAR) since 2008. By the summer of 2012 all glaciers larger than 10 km² had been measured, and the analysis of the results will be finished before the end of 2013. Accurate elevation models based on these measurements will be available from Vatnajökull, Hofsjökull, Langjökull, Eiríksjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Mýrdalsjökull, Eyjafjallajökull, Drangajökull, Tungnafellsjökull and several other smaller glaciers.

A total of 11,000 km² glaciers have been mapped in this effort, but the total measured area exceeds 15,000 km², since some ice-free areas outside the ice caps are included, and also some areas have been measured twice for research and quality assurance purposes.

Comparable digital elevation models of glaciers in Iceland have hitherto not been available. The new models will serve as a baseline for comparison with all other measurement, past and future. With repeated measurements it is possible to calculate the volume changes and hence the contribution of glaciers to increased river runoff of rivers, and to sea level rise.

Mapping began during the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007 to 2009. Various national and international research funds and stakeholders have supported the measurement project. The importance of having the current status of Icelandic glaciers mapped in this way cannot be overstated, as climate change is resulting in rapid changes in the country's glaciers.

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