Ice sheet

A satellite composite image of Antarctica
Aerial view of the ice sheet on Greenland's east coast
Map of Greenland
Carbon stores and fluxes in present-day ice sheets (2019), and the predicted impact on carbon dioxide (where data exists).
Estimated carbon fluxes are measured in Tg C a−1 (megatonnes of carbon per year) and estimated sizes of carbon stores are measured in Pg C (thousands of megatonnes of carbon). DOC = dissolved organic carbon, POC = particulate organic carbon.

Ice sheet, also known as a continental glacier, is a mass of glacial ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than 50000 km2.

- Ice sheet
A satellite composite image of Antarctica

23 related topics

Alpha

Satellite observations of sea level rise from 1993 to 2021.

Sea level rise

Tide gauge measurements show that the current global sea level rise began at the start of the 20th century.

Tide gauge measurements show that the current global sea level rise began at the start of the 20th century.

Satellite observations of sea level rise from 1993 to 2021.
Historical sea level reconstruction and projections up to 2100 published in 2017 by the U.S. Global Change Research Program for the Fourth National Climate Assessment. RCP2.6 is the scenario where emissions peak before 2020, RCP4.5 the one where they peak around 2040, and RCP8.5 the one where they keep increasing.
Different sea level rise projections for the 21st century
Map of the Earth with a long-term 6 m sea level rise represented in red (uniform distribution, actual sea level rise will vary regionally and local adaptation measures will also have an effect on local sea levels).
Earth lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice between 1994 and 2017, with melting grounded ice (ice sheets and glaciers) raising the global sea level by 34.6 ±3.1 mm. The rate of ice loss has risen by 57% since the 1990s−from 0.8 to 1.2 trillion tonnes per year.
Ocean heat content (OHC) between 1957 and 2017, NOAA
The Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica's largest, is about the size of France and up to several hundred metres thick.
grounding zone
Greenland 2007 melt, measured as the difference between the number of days on which melting occurred in 2007 compared to the average annual melting days from 1988 to 2006
Trends in land water storage from GRACE observations in gigatons per year, April 2002 to November 2014 (glaciers and ice sheets are excluded).
A stripe graphic assigns ranges of annual sea level measurements to respective colors, with the baseline white color starting in 1880 and darker blues denoting progressively greater sea level rise.
Jason-1 continued the sea surface measurements started by TOPEX/Poseidon. It was followed by the Ocean Surface Topography Mission on Jason-2, and by Jason-3
Between 1993 and 2018, the mean sea level has risen across most of the world ocean (blue colors).
Tidal flooding in Miami during a king tide (October 17, 2016). The risk of tidal flooding increases with sea level rise.
Major cities threatened by sea level rise. The cities indicated are under threat of even a small sea level rise (of 1.6 foot/49 cm) compared to the level in 2010. Even moderate projections indicate that such a rise will have occurred by 2060.
Bramble Cay melomys Melomys rubicola. In 2016 declared extinct on Bramble Cay, where it had been endemic, and likely also globally extinct, with habitat loss due to sea level rise being the root cause.
Placard "The sea is rising", at the People's Climate March (2017).
Beach nourishment in progress in Barcelona.
Changes in sea level since the end of the last glacial episode

This acceleration is due mostly to climate change, which heats (and therefore inflates) the ocean and which melts the land-based ice sheets and glaciers.

The glacier of the Geikie Plateau in Greenland.

Glacier

Persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight.

Persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight.

The glacier of the Geikie Plateau in Greenland.
With 7,253 known glaciers, Pakistan contains more glacial ice than any other country on earth outside the polar regions. At 62 km in length, its Baltoro Glacier is one of the world's longest alpine glaciers.
Aerial view of a glacier in Chugach State Park, Alaska, United States
Webber Glacier on Grant Land (northern Ellesmere Island) is an advancing polar glacier and frozen to the glacier bed. Debris rich layers of the ground moraine are sheared and folded into the ice. The steep icefront shows waterfalls. The glacier front is 6 km broad and up to 40 m high (July 20, 1978)
Shear or herring-bone crevasses on Emmons Glacier (Mount Rainier); such crevasses often form near the edge of a glacier where interactions with underlying or marginal rock impede flow. In this case, the impediment appears to be some distance from the near margin of the glacier.
Forbes bands on the Mer de Glace glacier in France
Black ice glacier near Aconcagua, Argentina
Fox Glacier in New Zealand finishes near a rainforest.
Diagram of glacial plucking and abrasion
Glacially plucked granitic bedrock near Mariehamn, Åland
Glacial moraines above Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
A drumlin field forms after a glacier has modified the landscape. The teardrop-shaped formations denote the direction of the ice flow.
Features of a glacial landscape
Landscape produced by a receding glacier
South Cascade Glacier in Washington documented from 1928 to 2003 showing the recent rapid glacier retreating. By looking at this photo it's clear to see how quickly the glaciers are retreating in the modern world. This kind of retreating is the result of climate change which has significantly increased due to human impacts. This photo was taken from USGS U.S. Department of Interior research looking at the last 50 years of glacier change.
Isostatic pressure by a glacier on the Earth's crust
Northern polar ice cap on Mars.
Ice calving from the terminus of the Perito Moreno Glacier in western Patagonia, Argentina.
The Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier of the Alps, in Switzerland.
The Quelccaya Ice Cap is the second-largest glaciated area in the tropics, in Peru.
Mouth of the Schlatenkees Glacier near Innergschlöß, Austria.
The Grotta del Gelo is a cave of Etna volcano, the southernmost glacier in Europe.
Sightseeing boat in front of a tidewater glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska.
Gorner Glacier in Switzerland.
An aerial photograph of the Gorner Glacier (left side of image) together with the Grenzgletscher (r.) flowing into it, both framing the Monte Rosa massif in the middle
A packrafter passes a wall of freshly exposed blue ice on Spencer Glacier, in Alaska. Glacial ice acts like a filter on light, and the more time light spends traveling through the ice, the bluer it becomes.
A glacier cave located on the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina.
Ice cracks in the Titlis Glacier.
Crossing a crevasse on the Easton Glacier, Mount Baker, in the North Cascades, United States.
An exposed glacier tube that once transported water down the interior of the glacier.
Romer Lake's Elephant Foot Glacier in the Earth's Arctic, as seen by Landsat 8. This picture shows several glaciers that have the same shape as many features on Mars that are believed to also be glaciers.  The next three images from Mars show shapes similar to the Elephant Foot Glacier.
Mesa in Ismenius Lacus quadrangle, as seen by CTX. Mesa has several glaciers eroding it. One of the glaciers is seen in greater detail in the next two images from HiRISE. Image from Ismenius Lacus quadrangle.
Glacier as seen by HiRISE under the HiWish program. Area in the rectangle is enlarged in the next photo. Zone of accumulation of snow at the top. Glacier is moving down valley, then spreading out on plain. Evidence for flow comes from the many lines on surface. Location is in Protonilus Mensae in Ismenius Lacus quadrangle.
Enlargement of area in rectangle of the previous image. On Earth, the ridge would be called the terminal moraine of an alpine glacier. Picture taken with HiRISE under the HiWish program. Image from Ismenius Lacus quadrangle.

On Earth, 99% of glacial ice is contained within vast ice sheets (also known as "continental glaciers") in the polar regions, but glaciers may be found in mountain ranges on every continent other than the Australian mainland, including Oceania's high-latitude oceanic island countries such as New Zealand.

A map of West Antarctica

West Antarctic Ice Sheet

Segment of the continental ice sheet that covers West Antarctica, the portion of Antarctica on the side of the Transantarctic Mountains that lies in the Western Hemisphere.

Segment of the continental ice sheet that covers West Antarctica, the portion of Antarctica on the side of the Transantarctic Mountains that lies in the Western Hemisphere.

A map of West Antarctica
A topographic and bathymetric map of Antarctica without its ice sheets, assuming constant sea levels and no post-glacial rebound
grounding zone

The WAIS is classified as a marine-based ice sheet, meaning that its bed lies well below sea level and its edges flow into floating ice shelves.

Greenland ice sheet

Greenland ice sheet

Vast body of ice covering 1710000 km², roughly near 80% of the surface of Greenland.

Vast body of ice covering 1710000 km², roughly near 80% of the surface of Greenland.

Greenland ice sheet
Melting ice during July 2012, images created by NASA show the process in the summer
Arctic Temperature Trend 1981–2007
Glaciologist at work
The cold blob visible on NASA's global mean temperatures for 2015, the warmest year on record up to 2015 (since 1880) – Colors indicate temperature evolution (NASA/NOAA; 20 January 2016).
In August 2020 scientists reported that melting of the Greenland ice sheet is shown to have passed the point of no return, based on 40 years of satellite data. The switch to a dynamic state of sustained mass loss resulted from widespread retreat in 2000–2005.
In August 2020 scientists reported that the Greenland ice sheet lost a record amount of ice during 2019.
Meltwater creates rivers caused by cryoconite on July 21, 2012
Meltwater rivers may flow down into moulins
Until 2007, rate of decrease in ice sheet height in cm per year.
Modelling results of the sea-level rise under different warming scenarios.
Satellite image of dark melt ponds.
Albedo change in Greenland

The ice sheet is almost 2900 km long in a north–south direction, and its greatest width is 1100 km at a latitude of 77°N, near its northern margin.

Ice

Water frozen into a solid state, typically forming at or below temperatures of 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water frozen into a solid state, typically forming at or below temperatures of 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

The three-dimensional crystal structure of H2O ice Ih (c) is composed of bases of H2O ice molecules (b) located on lattice points within the two-dimensional hexagonal space lattice (a).
Pressure dependence of ice melting
Log-lin pressure-temperature phase diagram of water. The Roman numerals correspond to some ice phases listed below.
An alternative formulation of the phase diagram for certain ices and other phases of water
Frozen waterfall in southeast New York
Feather ice on the plateau near Alta, Norway. The crystals form at temperatures below −30 °C (−22 °F).
Ice on deciduous tree after freezing rain
A small frozen rivulet
Ice formation on exterior of vehicle windshield
An accumulation of ice pellets
A large hailstone, about 6 cm in diameter
Snowflakes by Wilson Bentley, 1902.
Harvesting ice on Lake St. Clair in Michigan, c. 1905
Layout of a late 19th-Century ice factory
Loss of control on ice by an articulated bus
Channel through ice for ship traffic on Lake Huron with ice breakers in background
Rime ice on the leading edge of an aircraft wing, partially released by the black pneumatic boot.
Skating fun by 17th century Dutch painter Hendrick Avercamp
Ice pier during 1983 cargo operations. McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Sufficiently thin ice sheets allow light to pass through while protecting the underside from short-term weather extremes such as wind chill.

This marker indicating sea level is situated between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

Sea level

Average surface level of one or more among Earth's coastal bodies of water from which heights such as elevation may be measured.

Average surface level of one or more among Earth's coastal bodies of water from which heights such as elevation may be measured.

This marker indicating sea level is situated between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
Sea level measurements from 23 long tide gauge records in geologically stable environments show a rise of around 200 mm during the 20th century (2 mm/year).
Sea level sign seen on cliff (circled in red) at Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park
Water cycles between ocean, atmosphere and glaciers
Global sea level during the Last Glacial Period
Melting glaciers are causing a change in sea level

Some land movements occur because of isostatic adjustment of the mantle to the melting of ice sheets at the end of the last ice age.

Chronology of climatic events of importance for the last glacial period (about the last 120,000 years)

Last Glacial Period

The Last Glacial Period (LGP), also known colloquially as the last ice age or simply ice age, occurred from the end of the Eemian to the end of the Younger Dryas, encompassing the period years ago.

The Last Glacial Period (LGP), also known colloquially as the last ice age or simply ice age, occurred from the end of the Eemian to the end of the Younger Dryas, encompassing the period years ago.

Chronology of climatic events of importance for the last glacial period (about the last 120,000 years)
Artist's impression of the last glacial period at glacial maximum
Vegetation types at time of Last glacial maximum
Last glacial period, as seen in ice core data from Antarctica and Greenland
Europe during the last glacial period
Violet: extent of the Alpine ice sheet in the Würm glaciation. Blue: extent in earlier ice ages.
Map of Pleistocene lakes in the Great Basin of western North America, showing the path of the Bonneville Flood along the Snake River
Map showing the extent of the glaciated area in Venezuelan Andes during the Mérida glaciation
Map showing the extent of the Patagonian ice sheet in the Strait of Magellan area during the LGP: Selected modern settlements are shown with yellow dots.
Modelled maximum extent of the Antarctic ice sheet 21,000 years before present

The LGP is often colloquially referred to as the "last ice age", though the term ice age is not strictly defined, and on a longer geological perspective, the last few million years could be termed a single ice age given the continual presence of ice sheets near both poles.

A satellite composite image of Antarctica

Antarctic ice sheet

One of the two polar ice caps of Earth.

One of the two polar ice caps of Earth.

A satellite composite image of Antarctica
Antarctic Skin Temperature Trends between 1981 and 2007, based on thermal infrared observations made by a series of NOAA satellite sensors. Skin temperature trends do not necessarily reflect air temperature trends.
Polar climatic temperature changes throughout the Cenozoic, showing glaciation of Antarctica toward the end of the Eocene, thawing near the end of the Oligocene and subsequent Miocene re-glaciation.
An image of Antarctica differentiating its landmass (dark grey) from its ice shelves (minimum extent, light grey, and maximum extent, white)
Visualization of NASA's mission Operation IceBridge dataset BEDMAP2, obtained with laser and ice-penetrating radar, collecting surface height, bedrock topography and ice thickness.
The bedrock topography of Antarctica, critical to understand dynamic motion of the continental ice sheets.
Ice mass loss since 2002, as measured by NASA's GRACE and GRACE Follow-On satellite projects, was 152 billion metric tons per year.

Approximately 61 percent of all fresh water on the Earth is held in the Antarctic ice sheet, an amount equivalent to about 58 m of sea-level rise.

A photograph of Earth taken by the crew of Apollo 17 in 1972. A processed version became widely known as The Blue Marble.

Earth

Third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life.

Third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life.

A photograph of Earth taken by the crew of Apollo 17 in 1972. A processed version became widely known as The Blue Marble.
Planetary disk of a star, the inner ring has a radius equal to Earth and the Sun
Artist's impression of earth during the Archean eon, showing falling meteor, erupting volcano, round stromatolites, and barren landscape
Earth topological map, the area is redder if it is raised higher in real-life
Global map of heat flow from Earth's interior to the surface
Earth's major plates, which are: · ·  ·  ·  ·
Satellite picture of Upsala Glacier, showing mountains, icebergs, lakes, and clouds
Schematic of Earth's magnetosphere, with the solar wind flows from left to right
Earth's rotation imaged by Deep Space Climate Observatory, showing axis tilt
Illustration of the Earth, Earth's orbit, the Sun and the four seasons
Earth's axial tilt and its relation to the rotation axis and planes of orbit
Earth-Moon system seen from Mars
A model of Vanguard 1, the oldest human-made object in Earth orbit
Water is transported to various parts of the hydrosphere via the water cycle
Top of Earth's blue-tinted atmosphere, with the Moon at the background
Fungi are one of the kingdoms of life on Earth.
The seven continents of Earth:
Earth's land use for human agriculture
Change in average surface air temperature since the industrial revolution, plus drivers for that change. Human activity has caused increased temperatures, with natural forces adding some variability.
Earthrise, taken in 1968 by William Anders, an astronaut on board Apollo 8
🜨

Alpine glaciers form in mountainous areas, whereas vast ice sheets form over land in polar regions.

Greenland

Island country part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Island country part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Greenland visible from space
Areas of Independence I and Independence II cultures around Independence Fjord
The Kingittorsuaq Runestone from Kingittorsuaq Island (Middle Ages)
One of the last contemporary written mentions of the Norse Greenlanders records a marriage which took place in 1408 in the church of Hvalsey – today the best-preserved Nordic ruins in Greenland. The married couple then travelled to Iceland, which is why the account has been preserved.
Ingibjørg Tombstone.
Pictures of Greenland, c. 1863
An English map of 1747, based on Hans Egede's descriptions and misconceptions, by Emanuel Bowen
Godthåb in Greenland, c. 1878
1869 photograph of Greenlandic Inuit.
Map of Eirik Raudes Land
The orthography and vocabulary of the Greenlandic language is governed by Oqaasileriffik, the Greenlandic language secretariat, located in the Ilimmarfik University of Greenland, Nuuk.
The United States has operated Thule Air Base since the 1950s.
Sermiligaaq. Greenland has more than 60 settlements.
Map of Greenland
Greenland bedrock, at current elevation above sea level
Aurora Borealis, the northern lights at the sky in Greenland
Muskoxen in Greenland
The Greenland Dog was brought from Siberia 1,000 years ago.
Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, in Disko Bay near Ilulissat
The special territories of the European Union (pre 31 January 2020)
Nuuk is Greenland's capital and the seat of the government.
Municipalities of Greenland
A proportional representation of Greenland exports, 2019
Greenland electricity production by source
Air Greenland operates passenger and cargo freight services by air from, to and across Greenland.
Arctic Umiaq Line operates passenger and freight services by sea across Greenland.
Buses service in Ilulissat
Tunumiit Inuit couple from Kulusuk
A bilingual sign in Nuuk, displaying the Danish and Kalaallisut for "Parking forbidden for all vehicles"
Ilimmarfik university Campus in Nuuk
Most Greenlandic villages, including Nanortalik, have their own church.
Nive Nielsen, Greenlandic singer and songwriter
Panel discussion with Greenlandic movie maker Inuk Silis Høegh at the launch of his movie about groundbreaking Greenlandic band Sumé
Teletaarnet Headquarters in Nuuk Greenland
Arctic television in Ilulissat

The weight of the ice sheet has depressed the central land area to form a basin lying more than 300 m below sea level, while elevations rise suddenly and steeply near the coast.