GLACIERS: Basics

As winter chills much of the northern United States, we thought we’d focus on one of the coolest phenomena on our planet — glaciers. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

We’re listening to the pops and creaks of a glacier.

“A glacier is like a store of snow that didn’t have enough time to melt. So we can imagine that your winter snowfall just couldn’t melt away every summer. Every summer was just too cold for the snow to disappear, and over time the snow would just build up. And the great depth of snow that would build would then compress the snow and form ice.”

Andrew Russell is a lecturer in physical geography at Keele University, in Great Britain. He explains that the slow process of ice formation through compression creates what’s called glacier ice, which has much larger ice crystals than typical lake or ocean ice, and also has the capacity to flow.

“So we can imagine that a glacier is trying to flow down to areas where it can melt. The lower elevations or at lower latitudes. So on a global scale, ice may flow in the northern hemisphere, from north to south, trying to get to warmer climes.”

“Glaciers flow just like plastics. If, you know, you melt maybe things you shouldn’t do on top of the cooker. The handle of plastic kitchen utensils, you’ll see that there will be a flow — that you’ll get big lobes or teardrop shapes of plastic. That sort of flow is very similar to what we have in glaciers.”

We’ll hear more about glaciers in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.

GLACIERS: Basics

Winter in the United States turns our thoughts to the slow flow of glaciers across the planet.
Air Date:01/28/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

As winter chills much of the northern United States, we thought we'd focus on one of the coolest phenomena on our planet -- glaciers. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

We're listening to the pops and creaks of a glacier.

"A glacier is like a store of snow that didn't have enough time to melt. So we can imagine that your winter snowfall just couldn't melt away every summer. Every summer was just too cold for the snow to disappear, and over time the snow would just build up. And the great depth of snow that would build would then compress the snow and form ice."

Andrew Russell is a lecturer in physical geography at Keele University, in Great Britain. He explains that the slow process of ice formation through compression creates what's called glacier ice, which has much larger ice crystals than typical lake or ocean ice, and also has the capacity to flow.

"So we can imagine that a glacier is trying to flow down to areas where it can melt. The lower elevations or at lower latitudes. So on a global scale, ice may flow in the northern hemisphere, from north to south, trying to get to warmer climes."

"Glaciers flow just like plastics. If, you know, you melt maybe things you shouldn't do on top of the cooker. The handle of plastic kitchen utensils, you'll see that there will be a flow -- that you'll get big lobes or teardrop shapes of plastic. That sort of flow is very similar to what we have in glaciers."

We'll hear more about glaciers in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I'm Jim Metzner.