Encyclopedia of Snow, Ice and Glaciers

2011 Edition
| Editors: Vijay P. Singh, Pratap Singh, Umesh K. Haritashya

Cold-Based Glaciers

  • Reginald D. LorrainEmail author
  • Sean J. Fitzsimons
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-2642-2_72

Definition and synonyms

Cold-based glaciers are glaciers with their basal part entirely below the pressure melting point and therefore sometimes called “dry-based glaciers” (through lack of liquid water). Floating ice bodies are not considered in this entry.

Antonyms are respectively warm-based glaciers and wet-based glaciers.

This terminology emphasizes the importance of basal conditions of glaciers. In a happy turn of phrase, Knight (1999, p. 78) justifies this point of view telling that the basal part is the “business end” of glaciers because, among other factors, the rheology of the basal ice layer which accommodates the bulk of movement in many glaciers is critical to glacier dynamics and the basal ice acts as an agent of glacier impact on the landscape. In fact, as we will see below, nearly always, it is possible to equate cold-based glaciers with cold glaciers (and warm-based glaciers with warm – or temperate – glaciers). But this dichotomy is too simple an approach because...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Alley, B., Fahnestock, M., and Joughin, I., 2008. Understanding glacier flow in changing times. Science, 322, 1061–1062.Google Scholar
  2. Chinn, T. J. H., 1991. Polar glacier margin and debris features. Memorie Della Societa Geologica Italiana, 46, 25–44.Google Scholar
  3. Cuffey, K. M., Conway, H., Hallet, B., Gades, A. M., and Raymond, C. F., 1999. Interfacial water in polar glaciers and glacier sliding at –17°C. Geophysical Research Letters, 26(6), 751–754.Google Scholar
  4. Cuffey, K. M., Conway, H., Gades, A. M., Hallet, B., Lorrain, R., Severinghaus, J. P., Steig, E. J., Vaughn, B., and White, J. W. C., 2000. Entrainment at cold glacier beds. Geology, 28, 351–354.Google Scholar
  5. Echelmeyer, K., and Wang, Z., 1987. Direct observation of basal sliding and deformation of basal drift at subfreezing tremperature. Journal of Glaciology, 45, 361–369.Google Scholar
  6. Fitzsimons, S. J., 1996. Formation of thrust-block moraines at the margin of dry-based glaciers, South Victoria Land, Antarctica. Annals of Glaciology, 22, 68–74.Google Scholar
  7. Fitzsimons, S., 2006. Mechanical behaviour and structure of the debris-rich basal ice layer. In Knight, P. G. (ed.), Glacial Science and Environmental Change. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 329–335.Google Scholar
  8. Gilpin, R. R., 1979. A model of the liquid-like layer between ice and a substrate with application to wire regelation and particle migration. Journal of Colloid and Interfacial Science, 68, 235–251.Google Scholar
  9. Hooke, R. Le B., 1977. Basal temperatures in polar ice sheets: a qualitative review. Quaternary Research, 7, 1–13.Google Scholar
  10. Kleman, J., and Hatterstrand, C., 1999. Frozen-bed Fenoscandian and Laurentide ice shheets during the last Glacial Maximum. Nature, 402, 63–66.Google Scholar
  11. Knight, P. G., 1999. Glaciers. Cheltenham: Stanley Thornes.Google Scholar
  12. Lorrain, R., Fitzsimons, S. J., Vandergoes, M. J., and Stiévenard, M., 1999. Ice composition evidence for the formation of basal ice from lake water beneath a cold-based Antarctic glacier. Annals of Glaciology, 28, 277–281.Google Scholar
  13. Paterson, W. S. B., 1994. The Physics of Glaciers, 3rd edn. Oxford: Burtterworth Heinemann.Google Scholar
  14. Robinson, P. H., 1984. Ice dynamics and thermal regime of Taylor Glacier, South Victoria Land, Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology, 105, 153–160.Google Scholar
  15. Samyn, D., Fitzsimons, S., and Lorrain, R., 2005. Strain induced phase changes within cold basal ice from Taylor Glacier, Antarctica indicated by textural and gas analyses. Journal of Glaciology, 51, 611–619.Google Scholar
  16. Shreve, R. L., 1984. Glacier sliding at subfreezing temperatures. Journal of Glaciology, 30, 341–347.Google Scholar
  17. Sugden, D. E., and John, B. S., 1976. Glaciers and Landscape. London: Edward Arnold.Google Scholar
  18. Waller, R. L., 2001. The influence of basal processes on the dynamic behaviour of cold-based glaciers. Quaternary International, 86, 117–128.Google Scholar
  19. Weertman, J., 1961. Mechanism for the formation of inner moraines found near the edge of cold ice caps and ice sheets. Journal of Glaciology, 3, 965–978.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Département des Sciences de la Terre et de l’EnvironnementUniversité Libre de BruxellesBruxellesBelgium
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand