Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Iceland. It is located in the south-east of the island, covering more than 8% of the country. With a size of 8,100 km², it is the largest glacier in Europe in volume (almost 3,000 km²) and the second largest (after Austfonna on Nordaustlandet, Svalbard) in area (not counting the still larger ice cap of Severny Island of Novaya Zemlya, Russia, which is located in the extreme northeast of Europe).
The average thickness of the ice is 400 m, with a maximum thickness of 1,000 m. Iceland's highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur (2,110 m), is located in the southern periphery of Vatnajökull, near Skaftafell National Park. It is classified as an ice cap glacier.
Under the glacier, as under many of the glaciers of Iceland, there are several volcanoes. The volcanic lakes, Grímsvötn for example, were the sources of a large glacier run in 1996. The volcano under these lakes also caused a considerable but short-time eruption in the beginning of November 2004. During the last ice age, numerous volcanic eruptions occurred under Vatnajökull, creating many subglacial eruptions. These eruptions formed tuyas, such as Herðubreið which originally sat beneath Vatnajökull during the last ice age.
Vatnajökull has been shrinking for some years now, possibly because of climatic changes and recent volcanic activity.
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