Facts About Glaciers

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Glaciers exist on all continents of the world including Africa. However, most of the world’s glaciers are found near the Poles. The formation of glaciers can take more than a century to occur.

Fact 1.  An estimated 10 percent of the Earth consists of glacial ice including glaciers, ice caps, and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica.

Fact 2.  Over 75,000 kilometers of the land in the United States consists of glaciers with most of it found in Alaska.

Fact 3.   Glaciers originate from compressed snow that has grown into a big mass of ice. The size of glaciers can range from football fields to more than a hundred kilometers long.

Fact 4.  Ice which flows from the center of the Antarctic ice sheet through glaciers towards the sea forms ice shelves before breaking off as icebergs. The floating ice shelves hold back the glaciers.

Fact 5.  Glaciers have started retreating since the 20th century attributable to the Industrial Revolution from around the 1760s. Ice caps, glaciers, and ice shelves have slowly disintegrated during the 20th century.

Fact 6.  The main issues pertaining to glacial changes focus on the inland landward retreat of the ‘œgrounding line’ between the glaciers and the ice shelves. Satellite data for the last 20 years indicates the thinning of glaciers, an acceleration of ice floes and the landward retreat of grounding lines up to 25 km with the potential for further retreats in the near future. Studies indicate that the rapid rate of the glacier retreat observed over the recent decades has been observed very rarely over the last 10,000 years.

Fact 7.  Globally, the Himalayan glaciers have been melting regardless of the climatic changes.  In the Andes, the temperature variations have reduced the ice coverage and altered glacial runoffs impacting the fragile ecosystems in the Andean moors.

Fact 8.  In Ecuador, the Antisana glacier (5,753 meters) has lost most of its original surface area during the last 50 years. The Antisana is an important source of water for Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

Fact 9.  Ninety-five percent of the global glaciers outside of Antarctica are either retreating or shrinking because of the change in temperature and precipitation patterns.

Fact 10. The two known causes of melting ice shelves are warm ocean currents from below and warm air from above.

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