Glaciers are incredibly dynamic formations of ice. At Kenai Fjords National Park, visitors may see and experience glacial features and landscapes they have never seen before. The following are some examples of these features with that are found in the park. Technical reference for terminology can be found from the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) glossary, and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) glossary.
Glacier- a mass of ice that originates on land, usually having an area larger than one tenth of a square kilometer. Many believe that a glacier must show some type of flow or internal movement; others believe that a glacier can show evidence of past or present movement.
Icefield- a large area of interconnected glaciers. Icefields form in colder climates and higher altitudes where there is enough precipitation for them to form.
Valley Glacier- a glacier whose flow is confined by valley walls and flows through a valley.
Tidewater glacier- a glacier that terminates in the ocean.
Cirque glacier- a glacier that occupies basins near ridge crests. Most cirque glaciers have a characteristic circular shape, with their width as wide or wider than their length.
Hanging glacier- a glacier that terminates at or near the top of a cliff. They sometimes appear to be hanging from the cliffside. Hanging Glaciers sometimes look like frozen waterfalls.
Drift- all types of sediment deposited by a glacier, regardless of the size or amount of sorting. The term includes all sediment that is transported by a glacier, whether it is deposited directly by a glacier or indirectly by running water that originates from a glacier.
Outwash Plain- A broad, low-slope alluvial plain. Outwash plains are composed of glacially eroded and sorted sediment that we call outwash. This outwash has been transported by meltwater from the glacier. The outwash plain begins at the foot of a glacier and may extend for miles. Typically, the sediment becomes finer grained the further one gets from the glacier terminus.
Glacial Till- Sediment material that has been directly deposited by glacier ice. Glacial till is mixed together, it is not sorted or layered by size.
Moraine- a mound, ridge, or other distinct accumulation of glacial till.
Medial moraine- a ridge-shaped moraine in the middle of a glacier originating from a rock outcrop, nunatak, or the converging lateral moraines of two or more ice streams.
Lateral moraine- a ridge-shaped moraine deposited at the side of a glacier and composed of material eroded from the valley walls by the moving glacier.
Last updated: October 30, 2020