Factors Affecting the Rate of Movement in a Glacier

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Factors Affecting the Rate of Movement in a Glacier         Jay Gadher


The fundamental cause of glacier ice movement is the imbalance between accumulation and ablation across a glacier. Accumulation is the net gain in an ice mass. The sources of accumulation are direct snowfall and avalanching from higher slopes. Ablation is the process of wastage of snow or ice by melting. As the ice builds up over time in the accumulation zone, the weight of the snow and ice exerts an increasing down – slope force due to gravity. This is known as shear stress. As the snow and glacier ice accumulates, the slope eventually becomes steep enough that underlying ice can no longer support it. Once the shear stress is large enough to overcome resisting forces of ice strength and friction between underlying rocks, the glacier deforms and moves downward away from the zone of accumulation and towards the zone of ablation.

          There are many factors that influence on the rate of movement. They include:-


·        Gradient of the glacier.

·        Type of rock that underlies the glacier.

·        The amount of precipitation and ablation.

·        The area at which the glacier is thickest.

·        The pressure melting point.

·        The climate.


The gradient of the glacier plays a large part in the rate of movement of the glacier as the steeper the glacier the faster it will flow. On gently graded glaciers the rate of movement will be less. Another factor that influences the rate of movement is the geology of rock that lies under the glacier. For


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