The Virtual Briefing Room
What are Glaciers?

This image was taken by Matthew Durant
at Exit Glacier (Kenai Fjords National Park)

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What is a Glacier? 



Text Message #2: 

From: Crystal
Subject:  Your Tasks

Our emergency meeting of scientists will begin in 24 hours. It is crucial that you catch the next plane up here to Alaska.  We'll be meeting in our virtual briefing room at the Alyeska Resort, in Girdwood, Alaska.  Our mission will be to find out more about glaciers so that we can begin to locate the lost "top secret" package.  I hope you dress warmly.  Although it's only September, the weather reporters are already forecasting snow. Out here in the heart of glacier country, we'll surely get it.  Hurry, you're expected to be  at the virtual briefing room for this important meeting.

We will:

  1. Attend our summit at the virtual briefing room.

  2. Use the Online resources to learn more about glaciers.

  Good Luck!!!



I want to embark to the Virtual Briefing Room




Virtual Briefing Room
What are Glaciers?

Good afternoon!  I would like to welcome my esteemed colleagues, our nation's best national security agents, the world's top geologists, and our elite team of student scientists. You are here on the most important mission that our country has ever faced.  If successful, the results of your work will remain unpublished and most Americans will be unaware of your contributions to their security.  Rest assured, you are already making a difference to the future of our country.  Now, the first step in finding the "top secret" package is to learn more about what glaciers are.

gla·cier/ glā·shәr

1. A large, perennial accumulation of ice, snow, rock, sediment, and liquid water originating on land and moving down-slope under the influence of its own weight and gravity.  2. A dynamic river of ice.

Alaska is covered with glaciers.  Our satellite imaging system has found that there are over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska.  By sorting through these images, we found that over 5% of Alaska is covered with glaciers.  All of these glaciers hold massive amounts of water, in the form of glacier ice, trapped inside.  That's a lot of glaciers.

While we are out on our virtual explorations we will see three main types of glaciers:  hanging, tidewater, and piedmont.




Hanging Glacier 

In here, near the Northwestern Glacier, there are glaciers all over the place.  Take that one hanging from the top of that cliff.  People call those hanging glaciers.  The name makes sense because they end abruptly at the edge of a cliff and hang over before bits of it break off and crash down to the ground below.  




Tidewater Glacier

Glaciers that end in the water are called tidewater glaciers.  This glacier is the Northwestern Glacier.  It is awesome! The boat we are on, has taken us close to the terminus of the glacier.  Listen to that!!! You can hear cracking, a sound like a gunshot, and then splash, a chunk of ice the size of a house falls into the ocean,  SPLASH!  Because the water is warmer than the glacier ice, it melts the glacier ice pretty fast.




Piedmont Glacier

Most of the glaciers that we have seen so far are hemmed in on the sides by steep valley walls.  When glaciers flow out onto an open plain, they spread out.  These piedmont glaciers never reach the ocean.  Check out that one over there to the left.  See what I mean?




What is a Glacier? Awesome answers for those wondering "what is a glacier?"

Anatomy of a Glacier Awesome description and images of the different parts of a glacier.

What is a Glacier? Excellent information and images on what a glacier is.

What is a Glacier Anyway? Great information and images with some great vocabulary links.

What is a Glacier? Great images with easy to understand illustrations to add more details.

What is a Glacier? Student created but has good information and good links.



Alaska's Glaciers. Alaska Geographic volume 9, number 1, 1982.

An observer's guide to the glaciers of Prince William Sound, Alaska. Valdez, AK:  Prince William Sound Books,  1987. 

Glacier. R. H. Bailey and the Editors of Time-Life Books Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1982.

Glaciers  John Gordon.  Stillwater, MN Voyageur Press, 2001.

Glaciers, Natures Frozen Rivers. H. H. Nixon and J. L. Nixon. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1980.

Glaciers of North America: A Field Guide. S. A. Ferguson. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Press, 1992.

Blue Ice in Motion: The Story of Alaska's Glaciers  S. Wiley. Alaska Natural History Assn. 1995.


 Assessment Guide

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What is a Glacier? 


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  How do Glaciers Shape the Land?


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