Why Are Glaciers Blue and Other Glacier Questions Answered

Glaciers are one of the natural wonders of our world.  Along with other geographical features such as volcanoes, reefs, and waterfalls, glaciers have captured people’s interest and imagination for as long as humans have been exploring the world.  Approximately 10% of the earth is covered by these massive and majestic natural landmarks, and they contain about 75% of the world’s freshwater. It is no wonder that these miracles of nature inspire many questions several of which are answered here.

Why Are Glaciers Blue

If ice is clear and snow is white, then why, when glaciers are originally formed from snow and ice, do they often appear to be blue?  The answer has to do with how sunlight interacts with the glacier.  When natural light shines on glacier ice, the dense ice absorbs the white part of the light and reflects and scatters the blue light that is also present.  Blue light has a shorter wavelength that makes it harder to absorb than other types of light. This effect makes a glacier appear blue, especially when viewed from a distance.

How Many Glaciers Are There

There are more glaciers, some located in unexpected places, than you might think. Glaciers can be found on every continent of the world, except Australia.  Glaciers grow and shrink over time.  New glaciers are formed, and old glaciers disappear. In addition, there are some differences of opinion in the scientific world about what separates a glacier from others, and what size a glacier should be before it is considered a glacier.  That said, there are currently approximately 198,000 glaciers in the world.

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How Can I Visit A Glacier

Visiting a glacier is an activity found on many bucket lists.  Are glaciers safe? Most glaciers are difficult to access safely.  They are usually located at high altitudes, above the snow line in regions where there is a large amount of snowfall. Large cliffs of ice are constantly in slow motion and conditions can change.  In addition, large crevasses form in the top of glaciers which are sometimes hidden by ice and snow.  For this reason, it is recommended that you not walk on a glacier alone. However, there are places where you can visit a glacier. The Mendenhall Glacier Trek is one example of how you can tour a glacier with the help of experts. Visitors to glaciers often express the feeling of awe they receive from visiting the immense and powerful walls of glacial ice.

Are Glaciers Disappearing

Glaciers are not only impressive and beautiful to visit but provide reliable clean water to people in many areas. According to many news articles, climate change is affecting glaciers and this leads people to wonder if these massive deposits of ice, snow, and sediment are in danger of disappearing completely.  In the grand scheme, it is only recently that glacial measurements have been tracked.  However, based on data from the World Glacier Monitoring Service over the last 30 years, the global glacier mass has gone down each year.