We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Glaciers?

Michael Anissimov
Updated Feb 07, 2024
Our promise to you
AllTheScience is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At AllTheScience, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A glacier is a large, slow-moving river of ice, formed by many layers of compacted snow. The rate of motion varies greatly, depending on the ambient temperature, depth of the ice, the underlying slope, and other factors. Movement ranges from several meters per hour to several meters per century. Sometimes, when conditions are just right, glaciers experience a surge, accelerating their rate of movement by as much as 100 times. When glaciers surge, they can be a danger to humans, triggering avalanches of rock and snow.

Glaciers can be found on every continent and in about 47 countries. Most mountains taller than 4,500 meters (14,800 ft) have them, because temperature tends to quickly drop with altitude. There are two main categories of glacier: alpine glaciers, on mountains, and continental glaciers, on flat land where it is very cold. Continental glaciers almost completely cover Greenland, parts of Iceland, northern Siberia and Canada, and most of Antarctica. About 70% of fresh water on the planet can be found in the Antarctic ice sheet alone.

Glaciers are present year-round, but vary in their rate of melting. For a pack of ice to qualify as a glacier, it exist continually rather than just seasonally. For reasons that are not completely clear, the planet has experienced several major Ice Ages in its history, when glaciers extended as far south as New York, USA and Paris, France. So many glaciers piled up that the sea level was lowered by 100 m (328 ft), opening up large areas of land such as the North Sea, the Bering strait, and connecting New Guinea to the Southeast Asian mainland.

At one point in the distant past, about 700 million years ago, during the Cryogenian Period, some scientists believe glaciation may have been so severe than the entire planet was covered in an ice sheet. This has been called the Snowball Earth Hypothesis, and it is controversial, especially among scientists who doubt the geophysical feasibility of a completely frozen ocean. What is known is that the glaciers at this time were extremely large in extent, reaching the Equator in at least some areas. Interesting to note is that the first complex multicellular organisms, the Edicaran biota, appear in the fossil record almost immediately after the glaciations of the Cryogenian.

AllTheScience is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime AllTheScience contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

Discussion Comments

By anon118023 — On Oct 12, 2010

I'm doing a report on glaciers and the ice age and this website really helped me out! I can't find anything about the cause of the ice age though.

By anon114436 — On Sep 28, 2010

i was doing a project about melting glaciers. This kind of helped.

By anon86916 — On May 27, 2010

glaciers are made of snow that accumulated over thousands of years and contains sediments of rocks, dirt, trees, etc.

By anon86530 — On May 25, 2010

i am doing an essay on glaciers, and for the opening paragraph i have to talk about how glaciers are made? Anyone have any ideas?

By AnissimovM — On May 26, 2008

A glacier is an object, an avalanche is an abrupt event.

By mynn — On May 07, 2008

What is the difference between glaciers and avalanches?

Michael Anissimov

Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime AllTheScience contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology...

Read more
AllTheScience, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

AllTheScience, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.