The Heating Element


The Heating Element

Without the Gulf Stream, Iceland would live up to its name.

Published in the 2013 January-March issue of Iceland Review – IR 01.13. By Páll Stefánsson. Translated by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.


When the Gulf Stream embarks on its voyage in the Straits of Florida to the north and west its temperature is 30°C (85°F). It has a width of about 100 kilometers (60 miles), depth of 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) and speed of nine kilometers (5.6 miles) per hour. The volume of the Gulf Stream is extreme: 150 million cubic meters per second. That is 140 times more voluminous than all the rivers that flow into the Atlantic Ocean from both sides. The energy, the heat, that the Gulf Stream transports northwards is 1.4 petawatts (1015 W), or 100 times the world’s current energy demand.

Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Iceland and Norway are inhabitable. The climate in those countries is much milder than in other locations at the same latitude. On its course, it takes a 40 degree turn to the north just south of Newfoundland and continues to the west where it splits in two. One of the currents streams northwards to the British Isles, Iceland and past northern Norway, and the other southwards past the western coast of North Africa.

You can read the remainder of the article in the 2013 January-March issue of Iceland Review – IR 01.13. Five times a year the print edition of Iceland Review & Atlantica brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson's latest images of the country’s majestic landscape. Click here to subscribe and here to browse through a selection of pages from the current issue.