Most of the world's glacial ice is found in Antarctica and Greenland, but glaciers are found on nearly every continent, even Africa. Because certain climatic and geographic conditions must be present for glaciers to exist, they are most commonly found above snow line: regions of high snowfall in winter, and cool temperatures in summer. This condition allows more snow to accumulate on the glacier in the winter than will melt from it in the summer. This is why most glaciers are found either in mountainous areas or the polar regions. However, snow line occurs at different altitudes: in Washington State the snow line is around 1600 meters or 5,500 feet), while in Africa it is over 5100 meters, and in Antarctica it is at sea level. The amount of snowfall a glacier can transform into ice is very important to its survival, which is why even a cold region like Siberia experiences almost no glaciation—there is not enough snowfall.
Approximate Worldwide Area Covered by Glaciers square kilometers)
(without iceshelves and ice rises)
|Total glacier coverage is nearly 15,000,000 square kilometers, or a little less than the total area of the South American continent. The numbers listed do not include smaller glaciated polar islands or other small glaciated areas, which is why they do not add up to 15,000,000.)|
|United States||75,000 (including Alaska)|
|China and Tibet||33,000|
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.