snow worm

an oligochaete worm that lives on temperate glaciers or perennial snow; there are several species that range in color from yellowish-brown to reddish-brown or black; they are usually less than 1 millimeter (0.04 inch) in diameter and average about 3 millimeters (0.1 inch) in length; some feed off red algae.

slush zone

common near the snow line on a relatively flat portion of a glacier where melting snow forms slush.


a mixture of snow and grease ice.


the bonding together of ice crystals.


an isolated block of ice that is formed where the glacier surface is fractured.

rock glacier

looks like a mountain glacier and has active flow; usually includes a poorly sorted mess of rocks and fine material; may include: (1) interstitial ice a meter or so below the surface (“ice-cemented”), (2) a buried core of ice (“ice-cored”), and/or (3) rock debris from avalanching snow and rock.

Frying Pan Glacier, Colorado, is almost entirely covered by rocks and debris in this photograph from 1966. (Photo courtesy of George L. Snyder, archived at the World Data Center for Glaciology, Boulder, CO.)

sedimentary ogives

alternating bands of light and dark at the firn limit of a glacier; the light bands are usually young and lightest at the highest level up-glacier, becoming increasingly older and darker as they progress down-glacier.

rock flour

a fine powder of silt- and clay-sized particles that a glacier creates as its rock-laden ice scrapes over bedrock; usually flushed out in meltwater streams, causing water to look powdery gray; lakes and oceans that fill with glacier flour may develop a banded appearance.

retreating glacier

a glacier whose terminus is increasingly retreating upvalley compared to its previous position due to a higher level of ablation compared to accumulation.


when a mountain glacier's terminus doesn't extend as far downvalley as it previously did; occurs when ablation surpasses accumulation.
Muir Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve's White Thunder Ridge as seen on August 13, 1941 (left) and August 31, 2004 (right). (2004 USGS photo courtesy of B. Molnia; 1941 photo courtesy of W. Field. Archived at the Long-Term Change Photograph Pairs Special Collection in the Glacier...


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