Glaciers are large bodies of ice that form over many years in areas where more snow falls than melts. In this lesson, we will explore the basic concepts of glaciers, their formation, types, and their impact on the environment.
Formation of Glaciers
Glaciers are formed when snowfall exceeds melting and sublimation (the process of snow turning directly into water vapor) over time. The weight of the snow compresses the layers beneath it, turning it into ice. The glaciers move slowly due to the weight of the ice, and the downhill slope of the land.
Types of Glaciers
There are two main types of glaciers: alpine glaciers and ice sheets. Alpine glaciers form in mountainous regions, while ice sheets are found in flatter areas near the poles. Alpine glaciers are smaller than ice sheets and move faster. They can be further classified into valley glaciers, cirque glaciers, and piedmont glaciers.
Effects of Glaciers on the Environment
Glaciers have a significant impact on the environment. They can carve valleys and create lakes, and their melting can cause floods and landslides. As glaciers move, they erode the land and shape it into characteristic U-shaped valleys. The meltwater from glaciers is an important source of freshwater for many regions.
Global Warming and Glaciers
Global warming is causing the world’s glaciers to melt faster than they can be replenished, causing many to shrink and disappear altogether. This melting also contributes to sea-level rise, which can cause flooding in low-lying areas. The loss of glaciers also impacts the environment and wildlife that depend on them.