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What is a glacier?

Roughly speaking, a glacier is an almost eternal river of ice. Some glaciers are small alpine glaciers that resemble a river. These can be found on high mountains. Others are powerful currents from inland ice sheets, such as in Antarctica or Greenland.

How is a glacier formed?

A glacier is created where large masses of snow repeatedly fall at one point. Snowfall after snowfall, layers are formed, the new snow covers the old and finally the layers become so heavy that the snow is compressed on the ground.

The bottom layer begins to flow because it is crushed, squeezed and melted by the pressure of the top layers. As a result, the entire glacier begins to move very slowly, like an extremely viscous liquid.

Do all glaciers flow down a slope?

Glaciers don't need a slope to be able to flow. You can compare it to a pudding. If you put more and more pudding on top of a pile of pudding, the rest of the pudding will give in from the weight from above and flow to the side. Glacier ice is just much, much more viscous than pudding, which is why it flows incredibly slowly.

The end of the glaciers on the coast of Greenland, Chile, Alaska, and Antarctica is quite powerful. It is said that the glacier “calves”. On the way to the sea, the glacier is pushed over uneven ground. This can cause gaps and cracks. When the glacier now reaches the sea, the piece of ice breaks off at the cracks.

If the glacier or ice stream is still intact when it reaches the sea, it will not break immediately. The waves hollow it out from below and after a while the higher layers of ice have no hold and fall into the sea.

This is how icebergs are formed.

In Antarctica and Greenland, these icebergs can be as tall as skyscrapers if measured from top to bottom.