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Facts about Glaciers for Kids

A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight.

  • Another consequence of glacier flow is the transport of rock and debris abraded from its substrate and resultant landforms like cirques and moraines.
  • Glaciers form on land, often elevated, and are distinct from the much thinner sea ice and lake icethat form on the surface of bodies of water.
  • It is derived from the Vulgar Latin glacia and ultimately from Latin glacies meaning ice.
  • The processes and features caused by glaciers and related to them are referred to as glacial.
  • Many glaciers store water during one season and release it later as meltwater, a water source that is especially important for plants, animals and human uses when other sources may be scant.
  • An alpine glacier that fills a valley is sometimes called a valley glacier.
  • The only extant ice sheets are the two that cover most of Antarctica and Greenland.
  • The volume of ice is so large that if the Greenland ice sheet melted, it would cause sea levels to rise 20 ft all around the world.
  • Ice streams have narrow margins and on either side ice flow is usually an order of magnitude less.
  • In terms of thermal characteristics, a temperate glacier is at melting point throughout the year, from its surface to its base.
  • Glaciers form where the accumulation of snow and ice exceeds ablation.
  • The accumulation zone is the region where snowpack or superimposed ice accumulation persists.
  • After the glacier is gone, its force often leaves a bowl or amphitheater-shaped depression ranging from large lake basins, such as the Great Lakesor Finger Lakes, to smaller mountain basins, known as cirques.
  • The upper layers of glaciers are more brittle, and often form deep cracks known as crevasses.
  • Rocks and sediments are added to glaciers through various processes.
  • Chatter marks are seen as lines of roughly crescent-shape depressions in the rock underlying a glacier, caused by the abrasion where a boulder in the ice catches and is then released repetitively as the glacier drags it over the underlying basal rock.
  • Medial moraines are formed when two different glaciers, flowing in the same direction, coalesce and the lateral moraines of each combine to form a moraine in the middle of the merged glacier.
  • Because of the low atmospheric pressure, ablation near the surface is solely due to sublimation, not melting.