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branched-valley glacier

glacier that has one or more tributary glaciers that flow into it; distinguished from a simple valley glacier that has only a single tributary glacier.
In this photograph from 1969, small glaciers flow into the larger Columbia Glacier from mountain valleys on both sides. Columbia Glacier flows out of the Chugach Mountains into Columbia Bay, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of the United States Geological Survey. Archived at the World Data Center for Glaciology, Boulder, CO.)


break off from a larger ice shelf or ice sheet into the water.


process by which ice breaks off a glacier's terminus; usually the term is reserved for tidewater glaciers or glaciers that end in lakes, but it can refer to ice that falls from hanging glaciers.
Ice pinnacle separating from Perito Moreno Glacier. (Photo courtesy of Martyn Clark.)

calving glacier

glacier that loses material by calving, usually a glacier that terminates in sea, lake, or river water.

catchment glacier

a semipermanent mass of firn formed by drifted snow behind obstructions or in the ground; also called a snowdrift glacier or a drift glacier.


striations or marks left on the surface of exposed bedrock caused by the advance and retreat of glacier ice.
Close up of chatter marks, Mt. Sirius, Antarctica. Lens cap in the photo is five centimeters across. (Photo courtesy of Tom Lowell, University of Cincinnati.)


bowl shape or amphitheater usually sculpted out of the mountain terrain by a cirque glacier.
Cirque on Cirque Mountain in the Torngat Mountains, Newfoundland, Canada. (Photo courtesy of Hazen Russel, Natural Resources Canada. Copyright Terrain Sciences Division, Geological Survey of Canada.)

cirque glacier

glacier that resides in basins or amphitheaters near ridge crests; most cirque glaciers have a characteristic circular shape, with their width as wide or wider than their length.

cold glacier

glacier in which most of the ice is below the pressure melting point; nonetheless, the glacier's surface may be susceptible to melt due to incoming solar radiation, and the ice at the rock/ice interface may be warmed as a result of the natural (geothermal) heat from the earth's surface.

compression flow

flow that occurs when glacier motion is decelerating down-slope.