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Water, An Amazing Molecule!

• The only substance found as a solid, liquid and gas on

earth’s surface
• As water freezes the molecules form an ice lattice which
is a mineral
• You can pack more water molecules into a space than
ice because ice is a loose lattice with wide spaces
between the molecules, thus ice weighs less than an
equal volume of water and floats
• As ice is super cooled below freezing temperature it
compresses so extremely cold ice is heavier than ice
nearer the freezing temperature
• Water is truly the universal solvent-it dissolves anything
Glacial Ice and the Hydrologic Cycle
• 97 % of water on earth is oceanic (salt water)
• ~2 % of earth’s water is ice locked up in glaciers
• Ice is then the world’s largest single supply of
fresh water
• Glacial ice is the slowest portion of water moving
through the hydrologic cycle
• Think of ice like a very long term investment of
money- i.e. it has a very long “residence time”
• Because water trapped as ice moves through
the system so slowly it is most susceptible to
long term pollution
Glacier specifics
• Glaciers are compacted snow and ice that
are moving due to gravity
• Glaciers are found in high mountains
(Alpine or Valley glaciers) and near the
poles (Continental glaciers)
• Glaciers leave both erosional and
depositional evidence of their presence
that is unique to this environment
Glaciation and the Ice Ages
(What, where, how & why)
[factoid: the United States owes its fabulous agricultural
soils to Canada where they originated before glaciation]

• What is a “glacier”?
• Where are they found?
• How do they move?
• Why and how do we see glacial stages or
“ice ages” in the geologic record?
• Will it continue to get warmer or go cold
How do Glaciers Move? How fast?
• Internal deformation & basal sliding
• Continental glaciers move only a few feet
per year
• Alpine/valley glaciers move up to 1000
feet per year
• Surging or “galloping glaciers” may move
as much as 350 feet per day!
Features Visible on top of Glaciers
• Crevasses
• Flow banding and variegation
• Medial moraines (as an inventory of
upslope tributaries)
• Ice falls & snow avalanches
• Ice as an erosional agent & bubbles in ice
as inventory of ancient atmosphere
• Accumulation/ablation zones [the “budget”
of a glacier]
Valley (Alpine) Glacial Features
• Erosional
– U-shaped canyons
– Hanging valleys, cirques, arêtes, tarns, horns, glacial
• Depositional
– Medial, lateral, terminal & ground moraines
– Till, erratics
• Water bodies
– Tarn lakes
– Pater Noster lakes, kettles
– Tidewater glaciers, fjords
Glaciation sharpens up mountains and makes them
Continental Glaciers

• Where are they found?

• How they move- (pancake analogy)

• Glacial depression and rebound

• Jokulhlaups (Bretz type floods)

Continental Glacier Features

• Erosional
– Striations, Roche Moutonne

• Depositional
– Outwash plains, moraines, drumlins, kettles, eskers
– Till, loess, erratics

• Water bodies
– Finger lakes, fjords
Glacial Tillite and rock flour
• Very poorly “sorted” due to extremely
high viscosity of ice
• Clasts very angular and “immature”
• Clasts large and suspended in finer
• Clasts often bear unmistakable
scratches or “striations”
• Rock flour and Loess deposits