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Types Of Glaciers

Updated on October 22, 2011

Flowing massive pieces of ice, glaciers have been present throughout history. Although some have deteriorated over the years due to global warming, they are in essence a part of the creation of our world. From before the time of dinosaurs, some glaciers have survived billions of years whilst others have left their marks in different ways.

These are made of snowfall and cold temperatures however, they are rumoured to start their formation in the oceans with large chunks of ice melting together on their sides to form a large glacier. These spectacular glaciers cover around one tenth of the Earth’s surface.

The regions they are most prominent are; Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Netherlands, Antarctica, some parts of Pakistan, America, Arctic and of course Russia.

These powerful inanimate objects may simply float around, however, they are indeed the same majestic objects that changed the face of the Earth during the Ice Age and these objects are our main key to the past, present and maybe future too.

Formation Of Glaciers

So how exactly are these glaciers formed? Well, quite simply put, their formation occurs in areas where the air temperature never raises enough to melt snow.

After a snowfall, most of the melted snow washes away, however, some of it refreezes turning into little ice granules known as firn or névé.

Layers upon layers of ice granules or rather firn overlap one another and the pressure and weight of the relatively newer snow crystallises the bottom layer forming a solid ice layer.

Over years the constant new snow accumulates forming a massive stone of ice and therefore, making it impossible to stay still. This moving stone or rock of ice is called a glacier.

Karakoram Alpine Glaciers
Karakoram Alpine Glaciers

Types of Glaciers

Ice Glaciers and Mountain Glaciers

Better known as Alpine Glaciers, these exist at high elevations, and/or mountainous peak.

They are found in several locations; from the mountains of Himalayas, to the Alaskan ranges, the Andes ranges, the Alps of Southern New Zealand, the Swiss Alps and North American Mountains.

Their heights are generally 100 km or less, however, even their length can fully extend to 100 km.

Greenland Ice Caps
Greenland Ice Caps
Ice sheet
Ice sheet
Valley Glacier
Valley Glacier
Cirque Glacier
Cirque Glacier
Piedmont Glacier
Piedmont Glacier

Ice Caps

Miniature ice sheets that cover less than 50,000 square kilometres. These are usually found in Iceland, Greenland and Antarctica. They form small valley on their respective mountainsides. They do not generally move out of their basin like territory.

Ice Sheets

Usually found in Antarctica and Greenland, these are enormous sheets of glacier ice. They are also known as continental glaciers that cover a large proportion of the Earth’s crust.

Valley Glaciers

They form in the pre-existing drainage valleys that move between large peaks.

Cirque Glaciers

They are circular in shape, sharp and rough ice in comparison to the other glaciers these are found at the flank of a mountain.

Piedmont Glaciers

Better known as lake ice glaciers, these are softly and gently moulding the shape it is made in. usually found in Greenland, Alaska and Himalayan Mountain ranges.

They are formed when a valley glacier settles at a plain at the bottom of the mountain. Thus, resulting in crystallization and other processes.

Ice Tongue Glacier
Ice Tongue Glacier
Sea ice
Sea ice

Ocean Glaciers

Ice Tongues

They are areas from where the valley glaciers flow into the ocean. In shallow water, the glacier will remain with the base of the sea, however in deep water it will become a floating glacier.


They are large blocks of ice that have disintegrated from the floating glaciers.

Sea Ice

It is formed where the surface of the ocean freezes, some of it may float as the Arctic Ocean Sea Ice.

Yes, these glaciers have been an integral part of what man has come from, where it is now and where it should head.

The melting of these glaciers is a warning of the impending doom that is presented by global warming.

Thus, in essence these glaciers have been magnificent. Not simply because of what they have revealed to us, but also due to how they became what they are.

An integral moment in history, beautiful, intoxicating and rather good for the imaginative eye these glaciers have not just been a significance of excitement but also melancholy in several ship accidents due to a collision with one of these floating glaciers.

Perhaps, the most remembered one would always remain to be the one that destroyed the Titanic Ship; however, they remind us how they have repeatedly affected many people’s lives.

Glacier Calving


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    • chinemeremz profile image


      8 years ago

      This is really academic and fantastic.

      This article can be used for reference when talking about glaciers, because it is authoritative.

      Thanks for taking your time to research and of course share with us.

    • Ingenira profile image


      8 years ago

      Beautiful photos and informative write up.

      I used to climb up a glacier in Canada with a group of friends, and as the sun was shining, the water started melting at the bottom. We were in trouble, but managed to climb out of it ! It was a good and adventurous experience.

    • munirahmadmughal profile image


      8 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan.

      "Types of Glaciers"

      The hub is rich in information, simple in statement, and full of thought provoking.

      Everything on the earth is a sign of its Creator and it glorifies His praises in all its aspects. Awareness to mankind has come in many ways and is a great gift of the Creator.

      There is a system working everywhere in a harmonious way and complementing and supplementing each other. But when you ponder deep you will find that every particle is wonderful work and creation of the Supreme Being called Allah Almighty.

      These creations are all subdued before human being who has been blessed to harness them to run the affairs on the earth as vicegrent of God.

      And (it is Allah Almighty alone who) has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth; it is all as a Favour and Kindness from Him (i.e. from Allah Almighty). Verily, in it are signs for a people who think deeply.


      In doing so he is not to forget that life and death are also His creations and those have been created to test the human beings and to see whose performance is the best.

      May God bless all.

    • hassam profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pakistan

      Thank you! :) Glaciers are certainly fascinating.

    • vicki goodwin profile image

      Sojourner McConnell 

      8 years ago from Winchester Kentucky

      The article is awesome and the video was just amazing. To see that force of nature was a gift. Thank you for sharing it.


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