Glaciers of the Central Highlands

Langjökull, Þórisjökull, Eiríksjökull, Hrútfell and Ok, Hofsjökull, Kerlingarfjöll and Tungnafellsjökull
  • Helgi BjörnssonEmail author
Part of the Atlantis Advances in Quaternary Science book series (AAQS, volume 2)


This chapter has a detailed description of the types, shapes, sizes, locations, and all the relevant scientific data of the glaciers in the central highlands of Iceland, as well as some of their recorded local histories, folklore and legends. Langjökull (870 km2), is the second-largest ice cap in Iceland and Hofsjökull (830 km2), the third largest. Smaller glaciers include Eiríksjökull (21 km2), Þórisjökull (25 km2), Hrútfell (<10 km2), Ok (<1 km2) and Tungnafellsjökull (33 km2), as well as the small valley glaciers in Kerlingarfjöll (<3 km2). All of these glaciers figure prominently in early descriptions of journeys across Iceland through the central highlands. The western branch of the Icelandic volcanic zone lies beneath these glaciers, but no subglacial eruptions have occurred since the settlement of Iceland. Langjökull covers hyaloclastic ridges, tuyas and a lava dome, but Hofsjökull covers a huge caldera. Langjökull has a bed of porous lava and supplies large amounts of meltwater into the groundwater systems of Lake Þingvallavatn. Valuable data on the subglacial topography and mass balances of Langjökull and Hofsjökull have been collected, as well as vital information on glacial surges, especially of Langjökull into the proglacial lakes of Hagavatn and Hvítárvatn. The Holocene birth and evolution of Langjökull is also revealed through numerical modelling. Assuming a rise of temperature of 2.0 °C per decade, the glaciers of the central highlands will probably disappear within 100–150 years.


Glacial Period Accumulation Zone Lava Dome Central Highland Shield Volcano 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Engineering and Natural Science, Institute of Earth SciencesUniversity of IcelandReykjavíkIceland

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