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Iceland Mag

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See how Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon has been transformed as the glacier recedes

By Staff

  • Growing rapidly At the same time as the glacier recedes further to the north, the ocean is slowly eroding the narrow strip of land between the lagoon and sea, turning the lagoon into a fjord. Photo/Valgarður

Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon will have been turned into a fjord geologists predict. Global warming has caused the outlet glacier Breiðamerkurjökull to recede, exposing more and more of the lagoon at its edge. At the same time the narrow strip of land separating the lagoon from the ocean is being eroded by the sea. Currently the lagoon is connected to the ocean by Iceland's shortest river, Jökulsá á Breiðamerkursandi. Before long, however, the river will have been turned into a channel, connecting the lagoon will be directly to the ocean.

The lagoon has been expanding especially rapidly in the past twenty years, due to rising temperatures. The video below shows how the lagoon has expanded as the glacier recedes.

The lagoon only emerged in 1934: Prior to that it had been completely hidden beneath the outlet glacier.  Since the 1930s temperatures have risen, causing the glacier to recede and thus the lagoon to expand. In 1934 the glacier's edge was only 250 meters (820 ft) from the ocean. Today the distance is 7-8 km (4.3-5 miles).

The lagoon is only the southernmost edge of a deep canyon, carved out by the glacier. As the glacier recedes this canyon is exposed, its southernmost part a deep fjord.

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