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​GLACIERS: A COMPREHENSIVE OVERVIEW



  May 14, 2024

​GLACIERS: A COMPREHENSIVE OVERVIEW



Definition

A glacier is a massive, slow-moving river of ice, formed from the accumulation and compaction of snow over time. Glaciers flow due to the force of gravity and can shape the landscape through erosion and deposition.

Formation

1. Snow Accumulation: Glaciers form in areas where more snow falls in winter than melts in summer.

2. Compaction: Over time, layers of snow compress into firn and eventually dense glacial ice.

3. Movement: The weight of the ice causes it to deform and flow outward and downward.

Types of Glaciers

1. Alpine Glaciers: Found in mountainous regions, flowing down valleys (e.g., the Alps, Himalayas).

2. Continental Glaciers: Vast ice sheets covering large land areas (e.g., Antarctica, Greenland).

3. Piedmont Glaciers: Spread out at the base of mountains.

4. Tidewater Glaciers: Terminate in the sea, often calving to form icebergs.

Structure

- Zone of Accumulation: Area where snowfall exceeds melting.

- Zone of Ablation: Area where melting exceeds snowfall.

- Crevasses: Deep cracks in the glacier surface caused by movement.

- Moraine: Accumulation of debris (rocks and soil) carried by the glacier.

Glacial Movement

- Internal Deformation: Ice crystals deform and flow due to pressure.

- Basal Sliding: The glacier slides over the bedrock, lubricated by meltwater.

Glacial Erosion

- Plucking: Rocks are lifted and carried away by the glacier.

- Abrasion: Rocks and debris embedded in the ice grind against the bedrock, polishing and scraping it.

Glacial Landforms

- Cirques: Bowl-shaped depressions where glaciers form.

- Arêtes: Sharp ridges between glacial valleys.

- Horns: Pointed mountain peaks surrounded by cirques.

- U-shaped Valleys: Formed by glacial erosion, contrasting with V-shaped river valleys.

- Fjords: Deep, glacially carved valleys flooded by the sea.

Glacial Deposits

- Till: Unsorted debris deposited directly by a glacier.

- Outwash: Sorted sediments deposited by meltwater streams.

- Erratics: Large boulders transported far from their source by glacial ice.

Impact on Global Climate

- Albedo Effect: Glaciers reflect sunlight, helping to regulate Earth's temperature.

- Sea Level Rise: Melting glaciers contribute to rising sea levels.

- Freshwater Storage: Glaciers store a significant portion of the world's freshwater.

Glacial Retreat and Climate Change

- Retreat: Many glaciers are retreating due to global warming.

- Impact: This leads to reduced freshwater supply, sea level rise, and loss of habitat.

Current Status and Future Outlook

- Monitoring: Scientists use satellites and field studies to monitor glacier health.

- Adaptation: Communities are developing strategies to cope with the impacts of glacial retreat.

- Conservation: Efforts are underway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow the pace of climate change.

Notable Glaciers

- Gangotri Glacier: One of the largest glaciers in the Himalayas, source of the Ganges River.

- Vatnajökull: Europe's largest glacier, located in Iceland.

- Perito Moreno: A major glacier in Patagonia, Argentina, known for its dynamic calving.

Conclusion

Glaciers are crucial components of the Earth's cryosphere, influencing global climate, sea levels, and freshwater resources. Understanding and protecting these natural wonders is vital for maintaining ecological balance and mitigating the impacts of climate change.



SRIRAM’s


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