• Jarmo Korteniemi
  • Balázs Nagy
Living reference work entry


Accumulated ice mass that slowly creeps on the surface.


On Earth a glacier is “a perennial mass of ice, and possibly firn and snow, originating on the land surface by the recrystallization of snow or other forms of solid precipitation and showing evidence of past or present flow” (Cogley et al. 2011).

Processes and Control

A glacier erodes the underlying surface by abrasion, scouring, plucking, ice thrusting, and spalling. Erosion efficiency is dependent on conditions at the glacier base, including ice velocity and pressure, thermal conditions, amount of water, and underlying surface characteristics. Eroded materials are mostly incorporated in the glacier and deposited later as till, glacial erratics or dropstones, or outwash sediments.


For a detailed classification system, refer to Rau et al. (2005).

Subtypes Based on Relief and Extent

  1. (1)
    Large plateau-like glaciers:
    1. (1.1)
      Ice sheet (also called continental glacier): ice covering that obscures the...


Ground Moraine Lateral Moraine Mountain Glacier Rock Glacier Glacier Tongue 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Ahlmann HW (1935) Contribution to the physics of glaciers. Geogr J 86(2):97–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atkins CB (2013) Geomorphological evidence of cold-based glacier activity in South Victoria Land, Antarctica. Geol Soc London Spec Publ 381:299–318. doi:10.1144/SP381.18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bardel P, Fountain AG, Hall DK, Kwok R (2002) Synthetic aperture radar detection of the snowline on Commonwealth and Howard Glaciers, Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Ann Glaciol 34:177–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cogley JG, Hock R, Rasmussen LA et al (2011) Glossary of glacier mass balance and related terms, IHP-VII technical documents in hydrology no. 86, IACS contribution no. 2, UNESCO-IHP, ParisGoogle Scholar
  5. de Wildt MSR (2002) Satellite-retrieval and modeling of glacier mass balance. Dissertation, Universiteit UtrechtGoogle Scholar
  6. Fretwell P et al (2013) Bedmap2: improved ice bed, surface and thickness datasets for Antarctica. Cryosphere 7:375–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gachev E (2009) Indicators for modern and recent climate change in the highest mountain areas of Bulgaria. Landform Anal 10:33–38Google Scholar
  8. Greve R (2006) Fluid dynamics of planetary ices. GAMM-Mitteilungen, vol 29(1). Mechanics of ice in geophysical and astrophysical context, pp 26–51.
  9. Head JW III, Pratt S (2001) Extensive Hesperian-aged south polar ice sheet on Mars: evidence for massive melting and retreat, and lateral flow and ponding of meltwater. J Geophys Res 106:12275–12299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Head JW, Mustard JF, Kreslavsky MA, Milliken RE, Marchant DR (2003) Recent ice ages on Mars. Nature 426:797–802CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Holt J et al (2008) Radar sounding evidence for buried glaciers in the southern mid-latitudes of Mars. Science 322:1235–1238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Irvine-Fynn TDL, Hodson AJ, Moorman BJ, Vatne G, Hubbard AL (2011) Polythermal glacier hydrology: a review. Rev Geophys 49, RG4002. doi:10.1029/2010RG000350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jackson JA (ed) (1997) Glossary of geology, 4th edn. American Geological Institute, AlexandriaGoogle Scholar
  14. Langevin Y, Poulet F, Bibring J-P, Schmitt B, Douté S, Gondet B (2005) Summer evolution of the north polar cap of Mars as observed by OMEGA/Mars Express. Science 307:1581–1584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lliboutry L (1971) Permeability, brine content and temperature of temperate ice. J Glaciol 10(58):15–29Google Scholar
  16. Lodders K, Fegley B Jr (1998) The planetary scientist’s companion. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Madeleine J-B, Forget F, Head JW, Levrard B, Montmessin F, Millour E (2009) Amazonian northern mid-latitude glaciation on Mars: a proposed climate scenario. Icarus 203:390–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Nagle G, Witherick M (2002) Cold environments: processes and outcomes. Nelson Thornes Ltd, CheltenhamGoogle Scholar
  19. Plaut JJ et al (2007) Subsurface radar sounding of the south polar layered deposits of Mars. Science 316:92–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rau F, Mauz F, Vogt S, Khalsa SJS, Raup B (2005) Illustrated GLIMS glacier classification manual. GLIMS regional center ‘Antarctic Peninsula’. Institut für Physische Geographie, FreiburgGoogle Scholar
  21. Robshaw LE, Kargel JS, Lopes RMC, Mitchell KL, Wilson L, Cassini RADAR Team (2008) Evidence of possible glacial features on titan. LPSC 39, LPI contribution no. 1391, 2087 (abstract)Google Scholar
  22. Schon SC, Head JW, Milliken RE (2009) A recent ice age on Mars: evidence for climate oscillations from regional layering in mid-latitude mantling deposits. Geophys Res Lett 36, L15202. doi:10.1029/2009GLO38554Google Scholar
  23. Selvans MM, Plaut JJ, Aharonson O, Safaeinii A (2010) Internal structure of Planum Boreum, from Mars advanced radar for subsurface and ionospheric sounding data. J Geophys Res 115:E9003. doi:10.1029/2009JE003537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Smith DE et al (2001) Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter: experiment summary after the first year of global mapping of Mars. J Geophys Res 106(E10):23689–23722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Souness CJ, Hubbard B (2012) Crevasse-like openings as indicators of flow in martian glacier-like forms. 43rd Lunar Planet Sci Conf, abstract #1070, HoustonGoogle Scholar
  26. Stokes CR, Clark CD (2001) Palaeo-ice streams. Q Sci Rev 20(13):1437–1457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Zemp M, Hoelzle M, Haeberli W (2007) Distributed modelling of the regional climatic equilibrium line altitude of glaciers in the European Alps. Global Planetary Change 56:83–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earth and Space Physics, Department of PhysicsUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  2. 2.Department of Physical GeographyEötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary