Glacier Types: Icefields

Icefields are expanses of glacial ice flowing in multiple directions. Like ice caps, icefields usually cover less than 50,000 square kilometers (19,300 square miles), so they are much smaller than the ice sheets blanketing Greenland and Antarctica. In contrast to ice caps, icefields are interrupted by peaks of the underlying mountain ridges, and those mountains influence the flow of the icefield.

Satellite image of the Patagonian IcefieldThis photograph shows a portion of the massive Patagonian Icefield, which spans the mountains between southern Argentina and southern Chile. Several glaciers flow from the icefield, including the large Brüggen Glacier on the right, and the Occidental Glacier on the far left. —Credit: Image provided by Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory at Johnson Space Center, courtesy NASA Earth Observatory

Photograph of the Harding IcefieldAs many as 40 glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield, which is located in the Kenai Mountains of Alaska. The icefield receives more than 400 inches of snow each year, and is one of only four icefields in the United States. —Credit: Photographer unknown. 1979. Courtesy United States Government.

Last updated: 16 March 2020