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A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation (melting and sublimation) over many years, often centuries. Glaciers slowly deform and flow due to stresses induced by their weight, creating crevasses, seracs, and other distinguishing features. They also abrade rock and debris from their substrate to create landforms such as cirques and moraines. Glaciers form only on land and are distinct from the much thinner sea ice and lake ice that form on the surface of bodies of water.

Contributors in Glaciers


ice field

Water bodies; Glaciers

A continuous accumulation of snow and glacier ice that completely fills a mountain basin or covers a low-relief mountain plateau to a substantial depth. When the thickness become great enough, ...

piedmont glacier

Water bodies; Glaciers

A fan or lobe-shaped glacier, located at the front of a mountain range. It forms when one or more valley glaciers flow from a confined valley onto a plain where it expands. The 30-mile wide Malaspina ...

polar glacier

Water bodies; Glaciers

A glacier with a thermal or temperature regime in which ice temperatures always remain below the freezing point.

rock glacier

Water bodies; Glaciers

A glacier-like landform that often heads in a cirque and consists of a valley-filling accumulation of angular rock blocks. Rock glaciers have little or no visible ice at the surface. Ice may fill the ...

temperate glacier

Water bodies; Glaciers

A glacier with a or temperature-regime in which liquid water coexists with frozen water (glacier ice) during part or even all of the year.

tidewater glacier

Water bodies; Glaciers

A glacier with a terminus that ends in a body of water influenced by tides, such as the ocean or a large lake. Typically, tidewater glaciers calve ice to produce icebergs.

valley glacier

Water bodies; Glaciers

A glacier that flows for all or most of its length within the walls of a mountain valley. Also called an alpine glacier or a mountain glacier.

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