Glacier Physics

Compiled by Mark Francek (more info) at Carleton College (more info) (SERC) (more info) and Central Michigan University (more info)

Find animations and movies revealing how a glacier forms, moves, retreats, and in the case of tidewater glaciers, calves. Images of glaciers are also available.

Click here to browse the complete set of Visualization Collections.

Glacier Simulations (more info) This Java-driven simulation allows users to adjust mountain snowfall and temperature to see the glacier grow and shrink. There are scientific tools to measure thickness, velocity and glacial budget.

Life Cycle of a Glacier, PBS Nova (more info) A Flash annotated slide show traces the evolution of freshly fallen snow on the surface of a glacier, through firn, and finally to ice. The ice crystal pictured moves through the zone of accumulation, passes by the equilibrium line, and finally into the ocean after calving.

Seasonal Migration of Snow Cover, Exploring Earth ( This site may be offline. ) A Flash animation shows the seasonal fluctuation of the snow line on Mount Rainier, Washington. Locations above the snow line are snow-covered all year; locations below the snow line are snow covered during the winter and are snow free during the summer. The animation can be paused and rewound to emphasize important points.

Glacial Processes, McGraw Hill (more info) This site features four Flash animations of glacial processes. Topics include glacier basics, ice flow in a glacier, cross-section of an ice sheet, and crevasse formation. Each short animation includes captions and diagrams which define terminology and explain the processes depicted.

Earth Science Photo Library, USGS (more info)
: A search using "glaciers" yields over 2000 images available in 100, 700, and 1400 dots per inch resolution. The photos, with accompanying descriptions, range in age from 1868 through 1992. Many historic images are available taken by pioneer photographers at national parks.