Document Type

Honors Paper


Douglas Thompson

Publication Date



This honors paper was accepted in December, 2023.


Climate change is a worldwide, multifaceted phenomenon that impacts our world today and will continue to impact our world in the future with even greater severity. Although climate change can sometimes be considered an abstract topic due to its being somewhat intangible, one direct way of observing the effects of climate change is by studying glaciers. This study combines a literature review with repeat photography in order to demonstrate the tangible effects of climate change on glaciers in Iceland and explore the secondary impacts on sea level elevation (SEL), water availability and distribution, hydropower, natural hazards, and tourism in Iceland. The literature review explores past research on both short-term and long-term glacial changes as well as future glacial change projections in Iceland. Results of the literature review showed a general consensus that Iceland’s glaciers have been steadily declining since the early 1990s, with one study even determining that over a 129-year study period, half of the observed mass change on Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland (-240 +/- 20 Gt) occurred during geological years 1994/1995 and 2018/2019 (Aðalgeirsdóttir, G. et al., 2020). For repeat photography, the outline of Vatnajökull glacier from photographs taken in 2013 and 2023 were compared, showing a general trend of glacial volume loss occurring throughout the 10-year period, aligning with the results of the literature review. By using the highly visual nature of repeat photography and combining it with the review of previous glacial research, this study allows for scientific research surrounding the effects of climate change on glaciers to be easily visible to the general public, thus rendering a previously considered intangible concept tangible. This study may, therefore, be seen as a starting point for bridging the gap between scientific discourse surrounding climate change and information for the general public.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.