AskDefine | Define glaciology

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The study of ice and its effect on the landscape, especially the study of glaciers.

Extensive Definition

Glaciology (from Middle French dialect (Franco-Provençal): glace, "ice"; or Latin: glacies, "frost, ice"; and Greek: λόγος, logos, "speech" lit. "to talk about ice") is the study of glaciers, or more generally ice and natural phenomena that involve ice.
Glaciology is an interdisciplinary earth science that integrates geophysics, geology, physical geography, geomorphology, climatology, meteorology, hydrology, biology, and ecology. The impact of glaciers on humans adds the fields of human geography and anthropology. The presence of ice on Mars and Europa brings in an extraterrestrial component to the field.


Areas of study within glaciology include glacial history and the reconstruction of past glaciation. A glaciologist is a person who studies glaciers. Glaciology is one of the key areas of polar research.


There are two general categories of glaciation which glaciologists distinguish: alpine glaciation, accumulations or "rivers of ice" confined to valleys; and continental glaciation, unrestricted accumulations which once covered much of the northern continents.
  • Alpine - ice flows down the valleys of mountainous areas and forms a tongue of ice moving towards the plains below. Alpine glaciers tend to make the topography more rugged.
  • Continental - an ice sheet found today, only in high latitudes (Greenland/Antarctica), thousands of square kilometers wide and thousands of meters thick. These tend to smooth out the landscape.

Zones of glaciers

  • Accumulation, where the formation of ice is faster than its removal.
  • Wastage or Ablation, where the sum of melting and evaporation (sublimation) is greater than the amount of snow added each year.


; Arête : an acute ridge of rock where two cirques abut.; Cirque, corrie or cwm : bowl shaped depression excavated by the source of a glacier.; Flow : movement (of ice) in a constant direction.; Horn : spire of rock formed by the headward erosion of a ring of cirques around a single mountain. It is an extreme case of an arête.; Tarn : a lake formed in the bottom of a cirque when its glacier has melted.

Glacial deposits


; Kettles : block of stagnant ice leaves a depression or pit; Kames : stratified drift builds up low steep hills


; Moraines : (Terminal) material deposited at the end; (Ground) material deposited as glacier melts; (lateral) material deposited along the sides.; Ribbed moraines : large subglacial elongated hills transverse to former ice flow.


  • Hambrey, Michael and Jürg Alean. Glaciers 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-521-82808-2
  • Benn, Douglas I. and David J. A. Evans. Glaciers and Glaciation. London; Arnold, 1998. ISBN 0-340-58431-9
  • Knight, Peter G. Glaciers Cheltenham; Nelson Thornes, 1999. ISBN 0-7487-4000-7
glaciology in Bulgarian: Глациология
glaciology in Czech: Glaciologie
glaciology in Danish: Glaciologi
glaciology in German: Glaziologie
glaciology in Estonian: Glatsioloogia
glaciology in Spanish: Glaciología
glaciology in Esperanto: Glaciologio
glaciology in Persian: یخ‌شناسی
glaciology in French: Glaciologie
glaciology in Croatian: Glaciologija
glaciology in Indonesian: Glasiologi
glaciology in Icelandic: Jöklafræði
glaciology in Italian: Glaciologia
glaciology in Luxembourgish: Glaziologie
glaciology in Lithuanian: Glaciologija
glaciology in Hungarian: Glaciológia
glaciology in Malay (macrolanguage): Glasiologi
glaciology in Dutch: Glaciologie
glaciology in Japanese: 雪氷学
glaciology in Norwegian: Glasiologi
glaciology in Norwegian Nynorsk: Glasiologi
glaciology in Polish: Glacjologia
glaciology in Portuguese: Glaciologia
glaciology in Romanian: Glaciologie
glaciology in Russian: Гляциология
glaciology in Slovak: Glaciológia
glaciology in Serbian: Глациологија
glaciology in Serbo-Croatian: Glaciologija
glaciology in Finnish: Glasiologia
glaciology in Swedish: Glaciologi
glaciology in Turkish: Glasiyoloji
glaciology in Ukrainian: Гляціологія
glaciology in Chinese: 冰川学
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