Ten cool facts about glaciers

In my novel Nearly Canaan, Joshua and Jaya settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined. One of its features is the glaciers on Mount Rainier and Mount Adams.

Glaciers are made up of permanent snow cover that’s become compacted into what are sometimes called rivers of ice as they are pushed down a mountainside or valley.

Here are some details.


  1. About 10 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by glacial ice, but that’s shrinking fast.
  2. Glaciers store about 75 percent of the earth’s fresh water.
  3. If all of the land ice melted, sea levels would rise 230 feet.
  4. During the last ice age, glaciers covered up to a third of the world’s land mass.
  5. Glacier National Park in the Rocky Mountains of Montana has 35 named glaciers. At current global warming rates, none will be left by the year 2030.
  6. Scientists categorize glaciers into eight types, from ice caps and continental ice sheets to hanging glaciers and cirques in depressions on a mountain.
  7. Their surface often appears rough and wrinkled, containing deep cracks or fissures known as cravasses. These can be a deadly hazard for mountain climbers, especially when hidden by fresh snow or a whiteout.
  8. Ice caves melting into a glacier mouth are filled with ethereal blue light during the day.
  9. Antarctic ice shelves calve icebergs that are up to 50 miles long.
  10. To be classified as a glacier, an ice field needs to maintain at least .1 square kilometer of size throughout the year. That’s nearly 25 acres or 19 football fields.


Have you ever seen one? Up close?

Two climbers pass under a glacier. (Photo by Kurt E. Smith)

2 thoughts on “Ten cool facts about glaciers

  1. More than seen one up close. I’ve walked on two: Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier in Aotearoa New Zealand. What I found surprising is how noisy they are near the face. Cracking, creaking, and even sounds that give the illusion of groans.

    Safety measures were quite lax when I visited them in 1971, and today access to the glaciers near the face is prohibited. However, guided tours can still be helicoptered onto higher reaches of both glaciers.

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