Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Snow, Ice and Glaciers

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series pp 157-161


Cold-Based Glaciers

  • Reginald D. LorrainAffiliated withDépartement des Sciences de la Terre et de l’Environnement, Université Libre de Bruxelles Email author 
  • , Sean J. FitzsimonsAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of Otago

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 a ...

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