Glacier Types: Ice caps

Ice caps are miniature ice sheets. Like icefields, ice caps cover less than 50,000 square kilometers (19,300 square miles). Unlike icefields, ice caps completely blanket the underlying land features. They are domes that spread in all directions. Ice caps form primarily in polar and sub-polar regions that are relatively flat and high in elevation.

Map of the Earth's North Pole showing Greenland and IcelandGreenland is almost completely covered by a large ice sheet and its outlet glaciers. By comparison, Iceland (near the bottom center of this image) is a much smaller land mass, and features ice caps and glaciers. —Credit: Arctic Climate Research group at the University of Illinois

Space Shuttle photograph of the Vatnajokull ice cap in IcelandIceland’s Vatnajökull Ice Cap is the largest in Europe. The ice cap is an average of 400 meters (1,300 feet) thick, and covers about 8,100 square kilometers (3,127 square miles). —Credit: Photographer and date unknown. Courtesy NASA

Last updated: 16 March 2020