Based on my own interest in nature and the will to understand the process that happen all around us, I signed up for the online course “Introduction to the Circumpolar World“. Now, two weeks into the course, I can say that it is one of the most interesting courses I have taken. The reading material is very comprehensive and well-structured. Beyond reading, it is expected to write small essays concerning certain topics. I was especially interested in the geography and the history of the Lofoten archipelago after having visited that part of Norway last summer. Hope you enjoy reading.
The archipelago is located between 100 and 200km above the Arctic Circle and the chain of islands is about 190km long. As it is extending into the Norwegian Sea, it is under the influence of the Gulf Stream and in particular the North Cape Current. Thus, it has a maritime climate. The mean annual temperature is about 5C, which is warm considering its latitude of 67 / 68 North. The mean annual precipitation lies between 550 and 750mm. While the mountains of Lofoten with an altitude up to 1,146 meters above sea level receive considerable amounts of snow in winter, the coastal areas remain mostly free of snow. The ocean does not freeze up in winter. It is interesting to note that the climate on the Norwegian mainland just about 100km east of the archipelago is considerably different. There temperatures can reach up to 30C in summer and go down to -40C in winter.
Much of the current geography and physical appearance of the Lofoten archipelago was shaped by the last ice age, which started about 70,000 years ago and ended about 10,000 years ago. However, it took another 6,000 years for the ice to retreat entirely. On Lofoten it is possible to discover many erosional landforms that are linked to the ice age. One of these landforms are cirques, bowl-shaped hollows, which sometimes occur at the very top of valleys. They used to be the head of a glacier or stream. Furthermore, glaciers formed U-shaped valleys, sometimes filled with water, and thus called fjords. In addition, some of the lakes on Lofoten have a connection to the ice age: Tarns are lakes that are located in cirques. A moraine, which is an accumulation of soil and rock, can form a natural dam for such tarns. Also Paternoster lakes can be spotted. As the glaciers were moving down the valleys, they encountered some resistance from diagonal dams of harder, less erodible rocks. In addition, moraines from retreating glaciers can form the dividers between Paternoster lakes.
During the ice age, it is estimated that a 3000m thick ice layer covered the area. The weight of the ice pushed down the land. After the ice had melted, the land started to rise again. This process is still ongoing, however at a very slow pace of about 1 to 2mm per year on Lofoten.
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