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Looking for facts and information? See About the Cryosphere.
Icelights: Answers to your burning questions about ice and climate
What's hot in the news around climate and sea ice and what are scientists talking about now? Read more...
About the Cryosphere
What is the Cryosphere?
When scientists talk about the cryosphere, they mean the places on Earth where water is in its solid form, frozen into ice or snow. Read more ...
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Motion and change define a glacier's life. Glaciers grow and shrink in response to changing climate. Typically, glacier movement occurs over long periods of time (hundreds to thousands of years), but within historic memory, such transformations in fewer than 100 years are not unknown.
Not all glaciers move slowly. For example, surging glaciers can flow quickly, sometimes traveling as much as ten to one hundred times faster than the normal rate of movement. Others may retreat within only a few decades, leaving once glaciated valleys blooming with vegetation again.
By their movement, glaciers mark change. For this reason, among others, scientists study glaciers. By monitoring glaciers over time and around the world, researchers construct valuable records of glacial activity and their response to climate variations.
By comparing contemporary observations with historical and environmental records, such as agricultural records, and prehistoric temperature or climate profiles, glaciologists acquire and provide an enhanced understanding of global processes and change.
NSIDC's Glacier Glossary - Search and browse terms related to glaciers in NSIDC's comprehensive cryospheric glossary.
NSIDC Glacier Photograph Collection - NSIDC archives a Glacier Photograph Collection of historical photos, which includes both aerial and terrestrial photos for the 1880s to 1975. The photos are primarily of Alaskan glaciers, but coverage also includes the Pacific Northwest and Europe.