How and Why Do Glaciers Move?

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Submitted By kalz03
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Pages 4
How and why do Glaciers move?

Glaciers are large masses of ice that are continuously changing and may be perceived as an open system with inputs and outputs. They take up 10% of the world’s total land area and are usually found in Polar Regions like Antarctica and Greenland and places where there are high altitudes and low latitudes.
Fresh falling snow is made up of tiny ice crystals and after it lands it changes into solid ice. Newly fallen snow is light and porous, but as the snow becomes buried by more snow, the snowflakes change into granular ice called firn. As time passes the firn gets buried further causing the weight above it to compress it into solid ice. The force of gravity and the pressure of the ice cause the glacier to move downhill. The ice mass will stay stationary until it reaches a certain amount of thickness and when the ice reaches this amount of thickness, the pressure becomes great enough to cause the glacier to deform and move. The ice will move away from where there is the most pressure (thickest part of the glacier).
Glaciers can retreat or advance depending on the amount of snow accumulation and ablation that occurs from year to year. If accumulation exceeds ablation, then the mass of the glacier will increase which causes the glacier to advance. If the snout moves to an area of lower latitude ablation will increase and eventually equilibrium will be re-established. Retreating and advancing of glaciers are very slow processes and takes hundreds of years. However, when a glacier retreats rapidly, the movement can be seen over a few months and is shown by the Glacier Bay, Alaska.
Movement is much faster at the centre of the glacier as there is less friction between the ice and the valley which it flows down. Movement of ice along the base of the glacier is slower due the amount of friction created. Glaciers move in two ways; basal…...

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