Recent Climate Change, Projected Impacts, and Adaptation Capacity in Iceland
The subpolar maritime climate of Iceland is characterized by relatively large interdecadal variations. Temperature measurements show that the nineteenth century was colder and more variable than the twentieth century. Iceland experienced rapid warming in the 1920s and relatively mild conditions prevailed until the 1960s, when colder conditions set in. In recent decades Iceland has again experienced significant warming and early this century the temperatures exceeded those attained during the mid-twentieth century warm period. The recent warming has been accompanied by significant changes in both physical and biological systems. These include glacier retreat, runoff changes and isostatic rebound, increased plant productivity and changes in tree limits. In coastal waters, the range of fish species is changing, reflecting warmer conditions. Socioeconomic impacts that can be related to the warming are already discernable, in the agricultural, transportation, and fishing sectors.
Climate model projections for Iceland indicate that continued warming is likely although interdecadal variability may lead to punctuated warming episodes. An adaptation strategy has to take into account the various uncertainties associated with the magnitude of climate change and the severity of the impacts as well as the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of societal systems. A comprehensive framework for dealing with adaptation is needed. It is argued that a risk management perspective is appropriate.
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