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What are the main criteria for being a glacier?

Question:

What are the main criteria for being a glacier?

Glaciers:

Glaciers are giant bodies of ice, which can be found on every continent on Earth except Australia. However, not all ice can be counted as a glacier, nor does all snowfall form glaciers.

Answer and Explanation:

Glaciers are defined by the process by which they are created, their weight, and their movement.

  1. Process: Glacial ice is not created from freezing water. It is created from the recrystalization of snowflakes under immense pressure. Glaciers form when enough snowpack becomes so heavy that it compacts the snowflakes on the bottom, changing their molecular structure and turning them into glacial ice. Glaciers are defined by this metamorphic process.
  2. Glaciers must be heavy. While there is no exact weight used to define a glacier, the body of ice must be heavy enough to no longer resist the pull of gravity. Once a body of metamorphosed ice is heavy enough that gravity starts pulling it, it may be classified as a glacier.
  3. On a closely related note, glaciers are not static. They are flowing bodies of ice, propelled by the pull of gravity and the plastic flow of ice within the glacier itself.

To recap, blocks of ice may be classified as a glacier if they are composed of metamorphosed ice, are heavy enough to move with gravity, and are flowing.


Learn more about this topic:

Glacier Movement: Definition & Process

from Earth Science 101: Earth Science

Chapter 16 / Lesson 2
36K

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