Glaciers for Kids

A helicopter files over Kautz glacier.
A helicopter flying above the Kautz glacier.

NPS photo

If you were to stand at the bottom of Mount Rainier and look up to the summit, you would see tons and tons of ice and snow. Mount Rainier gets an average of 54 feet of snow every winter! It all can’t possibly melt away during the summer.

Each year a new layer of snow falls on what is left from the year before. The weight of all these layers of snow pushes down on each other, squeezing out all the air and leaving behind ice. These huge sheets of ice are called glaciers.

Mount Rainier has 27 major glaciers. There’s so much ice that these glaciers cover 10% of the national park.

Because these glaciers are so big and weigh so much, gravity pulls them downhill. As the glaciers are pulled downhill they take parts of the mountain with them and leave behind landforms like valleys.
 
Nisqually Glacier in 2005
A section of the Nisqually glacier in 2005. The dark areas in the lower left of the picture is glacial ice that has sand, gravel, and rock frozen into it.

NPS photo

The glaciers, and the water that melts from them, are the start of six major river systems that are important to the plants, animals, and people that live in the region.

Scientists that study glaciers spend their summers collecting data and exploring the glaciers and their crevasses and ice fields. To find out more about Mount Rainier’s largest glaciers click here.

There are silly-sounding scientific words for the different parts and features of a glacier. This link will tell you more!
 

Last updated: October 13, 2017

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