Ice field

Ice field

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An ice field is an area less than 50,000 km² (19,305 mile²) of ice
Ice
Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

 often found in the colder climates and higher altitudes of the world where there is sufficient precipitation. It is an extensive area of interconnected valley glaciers from which the higher peaks rise as nunataks. Ice fields are larger than alpine glacier
Glacier
A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

s, smaller than ice sheet
Ice sheet
An ice sheet is a mass of glacier ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than 50,000 km² , thus also known as continental glacier...

s and similar in area to ice cap
Ice cap
An ice cap is an ice mass that covers less than 50 000 km² of land area . Masses of ice covering more than 50 000 km² are termed an ice sheet....

s.

Formation


Ice fields are formed by a large accumulation of snow which, through years of compression and freezing, turns into ice. Due to ice’s susceptibility to gravity, ice fields usually form over large areas that are basins or atop plateaus thus allowing a continuum of ice to form over the landscape and not be interrupted by glacial channels. Glaciers often form on the edges of ice fields serving as gravity-propelled drains on the ice field which is in turn replenished by the ice field’s snowfall.

While an ice cap is not constrained by topography, an icefield is. An ice field is also distinguishable from an ice cap because it does not have a dome-like form.

Antarctica


While not technically an ice field (a continent
Continent
A continent is one of several very large landmasses on Earth. They are generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, with seven regions commonly regarded as continents—they are : Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.Plate tectonics is...

al-sized ice sheet
Ice sheet
An ice sheet is a mass of glacier ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than 50,000 km² , thus also known as continental glacier...

 rather), Antarctica is extensively covered by ice.

Asia



There are a handful of ice fields in the Himalayas
Himalayas
The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains Sanskrit: Devanagari: हिमालय, literally "abode of snow"), usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau...

 and Altay Mountains
Altay Mountains
The Altai Mountains are a mountain range in East-Central Asia, where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan come together, and where the rivers Irtysh and Ob have their sources. The Altai Mountains are known as the original locus of the speakers of Turkic as well as other members of the proposed...

 (the border range between the Central Asian Republic
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

s and China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

). One unexpected ice field is located in Yolyn Am
Yolyn Am
right|thumb|Remnants of the Yolyn Am ice field, September 2006Yolyn Am is a deep and narrow gorge in the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains of southern Mongolia. The valley is named after the Lammergeier, which is called Yol in Mongolian...

, a mountain valley located in the northern end of the Gobi Desert
Gobi Desert
The Gobi is a large desert region in Asia. It covers parts of northern and northwestern China, and of southern Mongolia. The desert basins of the Gobi are bounded by the Altai Mountains and the grasslands and steppes of Mongolia on the north, by the Hexi Corridor and Tibetan Plateau to the...

.

Oceania



There are no ice fields in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

.

New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 has
  • Garden of Eden ice field
  • Garden of Allah ice field
  • Olivine Ice Plateau


Reference:

Europe


The only large ice fields in continental Europe are in Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 (e.g., Dovre
Dovrefjell
Dovrefjell is a mountain range in central Norway that forms a natural barrier between Eastern Norway and Trøndelag, the area around Trondheim. As a result, it has been heavily trafficked during and probably preceding historical times...

 and Jotunheimen
Jotunheimen
Jotunheimen is a mountainous area of roughly 3,500 km² in Southern Norway and is part of the long range known as the Scandinavian Mountains. The 29 highest mountains in Norway are all in Jotunheimen, including the very highest - Galdhøpiggen...

), but these are much smaller than their Canadian
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 or Alaskan counterparts. There are a handful of small ice fields, also, in the southern Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

. Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

 also features a large ice field that covers a high percentage of the island.

North America


One of the more famous North American ice fields is the Columbia Icefield
Columbia Icefield
The Columbia Icefield is an icefield located in the Canadian Rockies, astride the Continental Divide of North America. The icefield lies partly in the northwestern tip of Banff National Park and the southern end of Jasper National Park. It is about 325 km² in area, 100 to 365 metres in depth and...

 located in the Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

 between Jasper
Jasper, Alberta
Jasper is a specialized municipality in western Alberta, Canada. It is the commercial centre of Jasper National Park, located in the Canadian Rockies in the Athabasca River valley....

 and Banff
Banff, Alberta
Banff is a town within Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. It is located in Alberta's Rockies along the Trans-Canada Highway, approximately west of Calgary and east of Lake Louise....

, Alberta
Alberta
Alberta is a province of Canada. It had an estimated population of 3.7 million in 2010 making it the most populous of Canada's three prairie provinces...

. Despite its fame, it is actually a comparatively small ice field relative to the America cordillera.

A large number of particularly expansive ice fields lie in the Coast Mountains
Coast Mountains
The Coast Mountains are a major mountain range, in the Pacific Coast Ranges, of western North America, extending from southwestern Yukon through the Alaska Panhandle and virtually all of the Coast of British Columbia. They are so-named because of their proximity to the sea coast, and are often...

, Alaska Range
Alaska Range
The Alaska Range is a relatively narrow, 650-km-long mountain range in the southcentral region of the U.S. state of Alaska, from Lake Clark at its southwest end to the White River in Canada's Yukon Territory in the southeast...

, and Chugach Mountains
Chugach Mountains
The Chugach Mountains of southern Alaska are the northernmost of the several mountain ranges that make up the Pacific Coast Ranges of the western edge of North America. The range is about 500 km long, running generally east-west. Its highest point is Mount Marcus Baker, at , but most of its...

 of Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

, British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

, and the Yukon Territory. The 6,500 km² Stikine Icecap
Stikine Icecap
The Stikine Icecap is a large icefield straddled on the Alaska–British Columbia boundary in the Alaska Panhandle region. It lies in the Boundary Ranges of the Coast Mountains...

 (located between the Stikine
Stikine River
The Stikine River is a river, historically also the Stickeen River, approximately 610 km long, in northwestern British Columbia in Canada and southeastern Alaska in the United States...

 and Taku River
Taku River
The Taku River is a river running from British Columbia, Canada, to the northwestern coast of North America, at Juneau, Alaska. Its mouth coincides with the Alaska-British Columbia border...

s) and the 2,500 km² Juneau Icefield
Juneau Icefield
The Juneau Icefield is an ice field located just north of Juneau, Alaska and continues north through the border with British Columbia and is the fifth-largest ice field in the Western Hemisphere, extending through an area of in the Coast Range ranging north to south and east to west. The...

 (located between Lynn Canal
Lynn Canal
Lynn Canal is an inlet into the mainland of southeast Alaska.Lynn Canal runs about from the inlets of the Chilkat River south to Chatham Strait and Stephens Passage...

 and the Taku River
Taku River
The Taku River is a river running from British Columbia, Canada, to the northwestern coast of North America, at Juneau, Alaska. Its mouth coincides with the Alaska-British Columbia border...

) both straddle the British Columbian-Alaskan border. Farther north, the Kluane Icecap — which feeds the immense Malaspina
Malaspina Glacier
The Malaspina Glacier in southeastern Alaska is the largest piedmont glacier the world. Situated at the head of the Alaska Panhandle, it is about wide and long, with an area of some . It is named in honor of Alessandro Malaspina, an Italian explorer in the service of the Spanish Navy, who visited...

 and Hubbard Glacier
Hubbard Glacier
Hubbard Glacier is a glacier located in eastern Alaska and part of Canada.The longest source for Hubbard Glacier originates from its snout and is located at about at about , approximately west of Mt. Walsh with an altitude around . A shorter tributary glacier begins at the easternmost summit on...

s as well as the Bagley Icefield
Bagley Icefield
The Bagley Icefield in southeastern Alaska is the largest nonpolar icefield in North America. It was named after James W. Bagley, a USGS topographic engineer who developed the Bagley T-3 camera and mapped Alaska prior to World War I...

  — sits upon the British Columbia-Yukon Territory-Alaska border and surrounds most of the Saint Elias Mountains
Saint Elias Mountains
The Saint Elias Mountains are a subgroup of the Pacific Coast Ranges, located in southeastern Alaska in the United States, southwestern Yukon and the very far northwestern part of British Columbia in Canada. The range spans Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in the USA and Kluane...

 as well as both Mount Saint Elias
Mount Saint Elias
Mount Saint Elias, also designated Boundary Peak 186, is the second highest mountain in both Canada and the United States, being situated on the Yukon and Alaska border. It lies about southwest of Mount Logan, the highest mountain in Canada. The Canadian side is part of Kluane National Park,...

 and Mount Logan
Mount Logan
Mount Logan is the highest mountain in Canada and the second-highest peak in North America, after Mount McKinley . The mountain was named after Sir William Edmond Logan, a Canadian geologist and founder of the Geological Survey of Canada . Mount Logan is located within Kluane National Park and...

; it extends as far west as the Copper River
Copper River (Alaska)
The Copper River or Ahtna River is a 300-mile river in south-central Alaska in the United States. It drains a large region of the Wrangell Mountains and Chugach Mountains into the Gulf of Alaska...

.

There are also large ice fields located in the Kenai Peninsula
Kenai Peninsula
The Kenai Peninsula is a large peninsula jutting from the southern coast of Alaska in the United States. The name Kenai is probably derived from Kenayskaya, the Russian name for Cook Inlet, which borders the peninsula to the west.-Geography:...

-Chugach Mountains
Chugach Mountains
The Chugach Mountains of southern Alaska are the northernmost of the several mountain ranges that make up the Pacific Coast Ranges of the western edge of North America. The range is about 500 km long, running generally east-west. Its highest point is Mount Marcus Baker, at , but most of its...

 area, such as the Sargent Icefield
Sargent Icefield
The Sargent Icefield is a large icefield located on the eastern portion of the Kenai Peninsula bordering Prince William Sound in Alaska. The ice field has numerous outflow glaciers including the Chenega, Princeton, and Ellsworth Glaciers....

 and the Harding Icefield
Harding Icefield
The Harding Icefield is an expansive icefield located in the Kenai Mountains of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. It is also partially located in Kenai Fjords National Park. It is named for United States President Warren G...

. Throughout the Alaska Range there also large icefields (including one surrounding Denali), which are mostly unnamed.

South America


In South America, there are two main ice fields, Campo de Hielo Norte (translates to Northern Ice Field or Northern Patagonian Ice Field
Northern Patagonian Ice Field
The Northern Patagonian Ice Field, located in southern Chile, is the smaller of two remnant parts in which the Patagonian Ice Sheet in the Andes Mountains of lower South America can be divided. It is completely contained within the boundaries of Laguna San Rafael National Park...

), in Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, and Campo de Hielo Sur (translates to Southern Ice Field or Southern Patagonian Ice Field
Southern Patagonian Ice Field
The Southern Patagonian Ice Field , located at the Southern Patagonic Andes between Argentina and Chile, is the second largest contiguous extrapolar extent of ice in the world...

), shared by Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 and Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

. There is also a small ice field on the western (Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

an) portion of Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. The archipelago consists of a main island Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego divided between Chile and Argentina with an area of , and a group of smaller islands including Cape...

 proper
Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego
Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego is an island near the southern tip of South America from which it is separated by the Strait of Magellan...

.

See also


  • List of glaciers and icefields
  • Ice sheet
    Ice sheet
    An ice sheet is a mass of glacier ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than 50,000 km² , thus also known as continental glacier...

  • Glacier
    Glacier
    A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

  • Nunatak
    Nunatak
    A nunatak is an exposed, often rocky element of a ridge, mountain, or peak not covered with ice or snow within an ice field or glacier. The term is typically used in areas where a permanent ice sheet is present...