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WHAT ARE GLACIERS AND HOW DO
• Glaciers are made up of fallen snow that compresses over many years into large thickened ice
• Glaciers form when snow remains in one location long enough to transform into ice.
• Some glaciers are as small as football fields, while others grow to be dozens or even hundreds of
• Each year, new layers of snow bury and compress the previous layers. This compression forces the
snow to re-crystalize, forming grains similar in size and shape to grains of sugar. Gradually the
grains grow larger and the air pockets between the grains get smaller, causing the snow to slowly
compact and increase in density. After about two winters, the snow turns into firn- an intermediate
state between snow and glacier ice.
WHERE ARE GLACIERS LOCATED?
• Most of the worlds glacial ice is found in Antarctica and Greenland, but glaciers are found on
nearly every continent, even Africa.
• Because certain climatic and geographic conditions must be present for glaciers to exist, they
are most commonly found above snow line: regions of high snowfall in winter, and cool
temperatures in summer. This condition allows more snow to accumulate on the glacier in
the winter then will melt from it in the summer.
• This is why most glaciers are found either in mountainous areas or the polar regions.
• Glaciers occupy about 10 percent of the worlds total land area, with most located in polar
regions like Antarctica, Greenland, and the Canadian Artic.
• Most glaciers lie within mountain ranges that show evidence of a much greater extent during
the ice ages of the past two million years, and more recent indications of retreat in the past
HOW DOES IT AFFECT LIFE ON EARTH?
• Glaciers are a natural resource, and people all over the world use the meltwater that
• Glaciers provide drinking water. People who live in mountainous areas often rely on
glacial melt for their water for part of the year.
• Glaciers irrigate crops.
• Glaciers help generate hydroelectric power. Scientists and engineers in Norway,
central Europe, Canada, New Zealand, and South America have worked together to tap
into glacial resources, using electricity that has been generated in part by damming
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Scientists are finding that glaciers reveal clues about global warming. How much
does our atmosphere naturally warm up between Ice Ages? How does human
activity affect climate? Because glaciers are so sensitive to temperature fluctuations
accompanying climate change. Since the early twentieth century, with few
exceptions, glaciers around the world have been retreating at unprecedented rates.
Some scientists attribute this massive glacial retreat to the Industrial Revolution,
which began around 1760. In fact, several ice caps, glaciers and ice shelves have
disappeared altogether in this century. Many more are retreating so rapidly that
they may vanish within a matter of decades
WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS?
• Although there is no clear way to stop the ice caps from melting we can start by
reducing emissions which will be beneficial in helping climate change and
helping nature do what it already does which is sequester carbon through
• Improving soil management also holds considerable promise because soils can
trap plant materials and diminish the amount of carbon dioxide the materials
give off as they decompose.
• Another promising strategy is to capture and store carbon belowground from
industrial smokestacks, particularly near fuel refineries or power plants.
“All About Glaciers” National Snow and Ice Data Knowledge of Earth’s Frozen Regions. 2015. Web.
Cusack, Daniel. “UCLA Faculty Voices: No Quick Fix For Those Melting Glaciers” UCLA Newsroom. June 12,2014. Web. December 1, 2015.
“Glaciers and Icecaps: Storehouses of freshwater” The USGS Water Science School. March 7, 2004. Web. December 2,2015.
Davies, Bethan. ”Mapping the Worlds Glaciers” AntarticGlaciers.org. 11/24/2014. Web. 12/1/2015.
Amos, Jonathon. “Nothing can stop retreat of west Antarctic Glaciers” 05/12/2014. Web. 12/2/2015