When I mentioned that I was going to Iceland, the question I was asked the most was: How did the countries get their names if Iceland is green and Greenland is mostly ice?
After thinking and researching the question, I decided it was important to first understand the history behind each countries name and then let you do some research and decide why the climates are different!
First, historically, how did Iceland and Greenland get their names, since the names of each country seem in conflict with their landscapes? The second question is: Why do these two countries have such a large differences in ice and snow coverage?
Iceland’s First Inhabitants
Historians believe that Irish monks may have been the first inhabitants of what is now known as Iceland. They called the country ‘Thule’. It’s unclear what happened to the monks, but it’s believed that the either didn’t like the Vikings and left or they were chased off the island by the Vikings.
To learn more about Iceland's first inhabitants go to Iceland’s Saga Museum link for Papar-The First Inhabitants: http://www.sagamuseum.is/overview/papar
The Exodus From Norway
Naddoður, a viking from Norway, was part of a sailing crew heading from Norway to the Faroe Islands during the 9th century. He was one of the earliest vikings to apply a name to the island. Supposedly he saw snow on the mountains of Iceland and named the country ‘Snaeland’ which translates to Snowland.
The next viking known to sail to Iceland was Gardar Svavarsson from Sweden. He named the island after himself, calling it ’Gardarsholmi’ which translates to Gardar’s Island. After only a year he sailed back to Sweden. Although he had only been there for a short time, Gardar praised the island once he reached Europe. His remarks influenced Floki Vilgerdarson to travel to the new land known as ‘Gardarsholmi’. Vilgerdarson and his shipmates settled in the Northwestern region of Iceland and all was well until winter came and all of their animals died of the cold and hunger. In the spring Floki saw the fiords filled with ice and decided that the island should be called 'Isafjordur' (Icefjord which later became the name we know now as Iceland). Floki, unhappy with Iceland eventually returned to Norway.
To learn more about the viking exodus from Norway go to Iceland’s Saga Museum link: http://www.sagamuseum.is/overview/hrafna-floki
The man who is referred to as the first long-time settler if Iceland was a Norwegian Viking, Ingolfur Arnarson. The story is that he and another family member murdered two sons of a powerful Norwegian earl. In 870 A.D. Ingolfur escaped to Iceland with his family to escape prosecution in Norway. Ingolfur named his new home after the steam rising from the natural hot springs and called the town Reykjavik, which translates to Smoky Bay. Reykjavik is now the capitol of Iceland and is well known for its steamy hot baths. To learn more about the viking Ingolfur Arnarson go to Iceland's Saga Museum link: http://www.sagamuseum.is/overview/ingolfur-arnarson
Erik The Red
Erik Thorvaldsson’s family escaped to Iceland after being banished from Norway for his father’s crimes of manslaughter. Thorvaldsson, also known as Erik the Red, seemed to follow in his father’s footsteps and was later banished from Iceland for three years for his own murderous ways. It was during this time of isolation from Iceland that he sailed west to a larger island. Stories say that later on, to help lure additional settlers to join him in the new land, he named the island Greenland. He thought that the name would give people the impression of green valleys and fertile land that would provide for more opportunity than Iceland.
To learn more about Erik the Red go to the link: http://www.greenland.com/en/about-greenland/culture-spirit/history/the-viking-period/erik-the-red/
The story’s and links above should help clarify the actual naming of Greenland and Iceland. However they don't explain why two countries that are so close together have such different climates. Take a look at the photo's below to see the difference between Iceland and Greenland's southern coastlines.
So why is most of Greenland covered with glacial ice... while most of Iceland is not? With close examination, the diagrams and links below can lead you to the answer!
Additional Resource Links
Ocean Conveyor Belt-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: http://www.whoi.edu/main/topic/ocean-conveyor
North Atlantic Oscillation-http://climatology.co.uk/north-atlantic-oscillation#.VtyrN4wrJl4
El Niño & Other Oscillations-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (scroll down the page to find information on the North Atlantic Oscillation): http://www.whoi.edu/main/topic/el-nino-other-oscillations
1) After examining the evidence in the links above, and using your own background knowledge, why do you think Iceland has a warmer climate than Greenland? Defend your answer with at least two different variables that could be impacting each countries climate.
2) What one system helps to moderate temperatures in both Iceland and New York?
3) Compare and contrast how the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) impacts the climates of Iceland, Greenland and New York. Include details about when the NAO is high (NAO+) and when the NAO is low (NAO-)