Glaciology (from Middle French dialect (Franco-Provençal): "glace", "ice"; or Latin: "glacies", "frost, ice"; and Greek: λόγος, "logos", "speech" lit. "to talk about ice") is the study of glaciers, or more generally ice and natural phenomena that involve ice.

Glaciology is an interdisciplinary earth science that integrates geophysics, geology, physical geography, geomorphology, climatology, meteorology, hydrology, biology, and ecology. The impact of glaciers on humans adds the fields of human geography and anthropology. The presence of ice on Mars and Europa brings in an extraterrestrial component to the field.


Areas of study within glaciology include glacial history and the reconstruction of past glaciation. A glaciologist is a person who studies glaciers. Glaciology is one of the key areas of polar research.


There are two general categories of glaciation which glaciologists distinguish: "alpine glaciation", accumulations or "rivers of ice" confined to valleys; and "continental glaciation", unrestricted accumulations which once covered much of the northern continents.

*Alpine - ice flows down the valleys of mountainous areas and forms a tongue of ice moving towards the plains below. Alpine glaciers tend to make the topography more rugged, by adding and improving the scale of existing features such as large ravines called "cirques" and ridges where the rims of two cirques meet called arêtes.
*Continental - an ice sheet found today, only in high latitudes (Greenland/Antarctica), thousands of square kilometers in area and thousands of meters thick. These tend to smooth out the landscape.

Zones of glaciers

*Accumulation, where the formation of ice is faster than its removal.
*Wastage or Ablation, where the sum of melting and evaporation (sublimation) is greater than the amount of snow added each year.


; Ablation : wastage of the glacier through sublimation, ice melting and iceberg calving.; Arête : an acute ridge of rock where two cirques abut.; Bergshrund : crevasse formed near the head of a glacier, where the mass of ice has rotated, sheared and torn itself apart in the manner of a geological fault.; Cirque, corrie or cwm : bowl shaped depression excavated by the source of a glacier.; Creep : adjustment to stress at a molecular level.; Flow : movement (of ice) in a constant direction.; Fracture : brittle failure (breaking of ice) under the stress raised when movement is too rapid to be accommodated by creep. It happens for example, as the central part of a glacier movinges faster than the edges.; Horn : spire of rock formed by the headward erosion of a ring of cirques around a single mountain. It is an extreme case of an arête.; Plucking/Quarrying : where the adhesion of the ice to the rock is stronger than the cohesion of the rock, part of the rock leaves with the flowing ice.; Tarn : a lake formed in the bottom of a cirque when its glacier has melted.; Tunnel valley : The tunnel is that formed by hydraulic erosion of ice and rock below an ice sheet margin. The tunnel valley is what remains of it in the underlying rock when the ice sheet has melted.

Glacial deposits


; Outwash sand/gravel : from front of glaciers, found on a plain; Kettles : block of stagnant ice leaves a depression or pit; Eskers : steep sided ridges of gravel/sand, possibly caused by streams running under stagnant ice; Kames : stratified drift builds up low steep hills; Varves : alternating thin sedimentary beds (coarse and fine) of a proglacial lake. Summer conditions deposit more and coarser material and those of the winter, less and finer.


; Till-unsorted : (glacial flour to boulders) deposited by receding/advancing glaciers, forming moraines, and drumlins; Moraines : (Terminal) material deposited at the end; (Ground) material deposited as glacier melts; (lateral) material deposited along the sides.; Drumlins : smooth elongated hills composed of till.; Ribbed moraines : large subglacial elongated hills transverse to former ice flow.


*Hambrey, Michael and Jürg Alean. "Glaciers" 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-521-82808-2
*Benn, Douglas I. and David J. A. Evans. "Glaciers and Glaciation". London; Arnold, 1998. ISBN 0-340-58431-9
*Knight, Peter G. "Glaciers" Cheltenham; Nelson Thornes, 1999. ISBN 0-7487-4000-7

ee also

*International Glaciological Society (IGS)
*Irish Sea Glacier
*List of glaciers

External links

* [ Snow, Ice, and Permafrost Group, University of Alaska Fairbanks]
* [ Arctic and Alpine Research Group, University of Alberta]
* [ International Glaciological Society]
* [ Glaciers online]
* [ World Data Centre for Glaciology, Cambridge, UK]
* [ National Snow and Ice Data Center, Boulder, Colorado]
* [ Global Land Ice Measurements from Space, USGS]
* [ North Cascade Glacier Climate Project]
* [ Centre for Glaciology, University of Wales]
* [ Caltech Glaciology Group]
* [ Glaciology Group, University of Copenhagen]
* [ Institute of Low Temperature Science, Sapporo]
* [ National Institute of Polar Research, Tokyo]
* [ Glaciology Group, University of Washington]
* [ Glaciology Laboratory, Universidad de Chile-Centro de Estudios Científicos, Valdivia]
* [ Russian Geographical Society (Moscow Centre)] - [ Glaciology Commission]
* [ Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics, Univ. of Innsbruck, Austria.]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • glaciology — 1856, from L. glacies ice (see GLACIAL (Cf. glacial)) + OLOGY (Cf. ology). Related: Glaciological; glaciologist …   Etymology dictionary

  • glaciology — ☆ glaciology [glā΄shē äl′ə jē, glā΄sēäl′ə jē ] n. [glacio (< GLACIER) + LOGY] 1. the scientific study of the formation, movements, etc. of glaciers 2. the glacial formations of a particular region glaciological [glā΄shē ə läj′i kəl, glā΄sēə… …   English World dictionary

  • glaciology — glaciologija statusas T sritis ekologija ir aplinkotyra apibrėžtis Mokslas, tiriantis ledynų kilmę, raidą, savybes, geografinį pasiskirstymą ir ryšius su geografine aplinka. atitikmenys: angl. glaciology vok. Glaciologie, f rus. глациология, f …   Ekologijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • glaciology — noun Etymology: Latin glacies + International Scientific Vocabulary logy Date: 1889 any of the branches of science dealing with snow or ice accumulation, glaciation, or glacial epochs • glaciological adjective • glaciologist noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • glaciology — glaciological /glay shee euh loj i keuhl, see /, glaciologic, adj. /glay shee ol euh jee, see /, n. the branch of geology that deals with the nature, distribution, and action of glaciers and with their effect on the earth s topography. [1890 95;… …   Universalium

  • glaciology — noun The study of ice and its effect on the landscape, especially the study of glaciers …   Wiktionary

  • glaciology — study of ice ages and glaciation Sciences and Studies …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • glaciology — glac·i·ol·o·gy || ‚glæsɪ É‘lÉ™dʒɪ / É’l n. scientific study of glaciers …   English contemporary dictionary

  • glaciology — [ˌgleɪsɪ ɒlədʒi] noun the study of glaciers. Derivatives glaciological adjective glaciologist noun …   English new terms dictionary

  • glaciology — gla·ci·ol·o·gy …   English syllables

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