February 19th, 2023

The glaciers of Alaska are absolutely fascinating! This largely untouched part of the world offers extreme beauty and adventure. In this article I will teach you 20 facts about the glaciers of Alaska… ready to learn more? Keep reading…

Facts About the Glaciers of Alaska

Are you stepping into the glaciers of Alaska in the coming holidays? The spell of Alaska’s blue glaciers and the majestic charm of an ice land will leave you speechless. Everything is mysterious and full of intriguing insights, from the Columbia Glacier’s earth-shaping marvel to the Exit Glacier’s glacial movement.

Before you stop close to the glaciers in Alaska, you must be curious about some amazing facts about them. You will find a thorough list of interesting facts about glaciers below that will be helpful for your journey.

Let’s start the guide without further ado!

glaciers of Alaska

1. Glaciers of Alaska or Rocks of Alaska?

Glaciers, ice body that takes centuries to form, is a rock. It sounds weird, but you will be amazed to see that glaciers are the composed structure of water, and due to certain low temperatures, they form crystalline structures and become as powerful as a rock.

Due to this characteristic, glaciers fall under a mono-mineral rock, and Alaska magnificently highlights this feature. If you’re visiting Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska, then you can enjoy a cruise from Seward to relish the bewitching sight of the Pedersen Glacier. Although witnessing the wildlife in the national park is also famous among tourists.

2. Blue and White Glaciers of Alaska

The Blue and White glaciers of Alaska carry a majestic charm that one can experience there. You must be wondering why some giant glaciers appear blue and others white. When an ice body attains strong characteristics like a rock, it absorbs all the colors of light (sunlight) and refuses to accept the wavelength of blue.

That’s why you see blue glaciers. However, some strong glaciers have a blanket of the new snow in winter, which is why they appear white to you. Alaska is full of such splendours, and you can see this easily via a cruise. But if you want to touch these glorious ice bodies, you can stop at Worthington Glacier. It is accessible on a walk; you don’t have to book a boat ride.

3. Nomenclature of Alaska’s Glaciers

An enthralling fact about Alaska’s glaciers is that nature lovers believe in naming glaciers no matter what the myths say about them. Some glaciers of Alaska are named after the city or region they are situated in and have names according to size and historical data.

From all perspectives, giving them names provides an attributing link to humans. During your visit there, you might feel that they are almost magical or enchanted. All glaciers of Alaska carry such charisma, but if you’re looking for a specific direction, stop at Sawyer Glaciers and Dawes Glacier.

4. Glaciers – Fresh Water Supplier

Alaska’s glaciers are not only beautiful, but also they store the Earth’s freshwater within these giant ice bodies. The glaciers of Alaska can be freshwater suppliers for the USA if the region ever faces a water problem.

On the contrary, if the temperature rose drastically and caused the melting of Alaska’s glaciers, the country would go under flood crises- this indicates how much water these glaciers store.

glaciers of Alaska

5. Glaciers of Alaska can move!

The fact that Alaska glaciers wander from their locations is one of the most remarkable things about them. Any glacier’s position or location changes; it moves at its glacial pace, which varies from glacier to glacier depending on size and weight.

In addition, if you want to experience this magical allure, you can stop at Muldrow Glacier because research shows that the Muldrow Glacier moves 30 to 60 feet daily. Though the glacier isn’t accessible, an ice-covered long river between the park and the glacier will help you to get a few images.

6. Glaciers of Alaska Over The Volcanos

The presence of volcanoes beneath glaciers adds to their natural splendour. In addition to having glaciers, Alaska also has volcanoes that are still active. It is impressive how well the ice and the fire get along and support one another.

Mendenhall Glacier is where you can witness this splendour in person. Before 2011, the glacier did not exhibit any effects of an active volcano. Since then, it has been erupting and melting ice. The glaciers are best viewed in the summer months; however, a survey has shown that glacier melting has led to flooding in Mendenhall Lake.

7. Surging Glaciers

The surging of glaciers in Alaska has increased rapidly due to the high temperature and irregular climate changes in recent decades. Glacier surging indicates that the glacier is moving faster towards the valley than its average speed.

In addition, glacier surging also occurs when water accumulates at the edges of the glacier and becomes ice, providing lubrication to the glacier to move faster.

8. Glaciers – Residency of Ice Worms

Like forests and rivers, glaciers also have their inhabitants, which are ice worms. You’ll be stunned to observe several 1mm-long, black-and-blue, thread-like worms over the glaciers’ surface. For self-feeding, they often emerge in the morning hours.

It’s interesting to note that in the past, people thought that blue ice worms were the cause of the blue ice mountains. Modern research, however, disproves these views. The idea that ice worms can grow larger than humans is another myth associated with Alaska’s glaciers, although analysis has disproved this notion.

You can head towards the Muir Glacier to witness some ice worms, as natives and tourists notice them there.

9. Tidewater Glaciers in Alaska

Alaska has many tidewater glaciers due to climate changes. Ice from the glacier breaks its connection with the rest of the glacier and falls into the water (river). While due to ice’s weight and size, when it hits the surface of the water, its generators ice missiles out of the water. The scene is indeed both captivating and tragic at the same time.

You can locate Worthington Glacier in Alaska to see little ice shooting from a close distance. While on the other side, you may take a boat to the Columbia Glaciers if you want to see the largest tidewater glacier in all its magnificence.

glaciers of Alaska

10. Beauty of Icefields

Alaska – being home to glaciers – also benefits from having many ice fields. Ice fields are formed when more than one glacier is assembled over a mountain or region due to an ideal temperature throughout the year. Ice fields receive the most significant snowfall, creating valleys of glaciers. 

Harding Icefield near the Exit Glacier is famous among the natives and locals. The greatest icefield is the 1,500 square mile Juneau Icefield in north Juneau, Alaska, stretching from east to west and north to south.

11. Ancient Glacier of Alaska

Alaska is the residence of thirty thousand years old ice bodies; 2002 research demonstrates. But still, there’s a chance that Alaska’s glaciers are far more ancient like Antarctica’s and Greenland’s glaciers. 

Nabesna is one of the 150 glaciers in Wrangell St. Elias National Park and has the oldest ice that you can track down between Mount Bona and Churchill.

12. Serac of Glaciers

Another fact about Alaska’s glaciers is that Alaska has many Ice Serac that tourists or glacier travellers may need to be careful with. Ice seracs occur when the glacier piece is breaking its bond with the main ice body. On average it is the size of a house size, but less potent than the glacier’s main body. It might break when you put your feet on it, and you’ll fall- be warned!

You’ll find many ice blocks or ice serac near the Matanuska Glacier in the south-central part of Alaska. However, Hubbard Glacier also has many ice blocks, some floating in the lake and others frozen in the ice lake.

13. Quantity and Size of Glaciers

Another amazing study of the glaciers of Alaska is that the exact numbers of glaciers are unknown. Previous studies claim that Alaska has 10,000 glaciers, and a new study believes there are more than 27,000 glaciers in Alaska.

As the glacier breaks into different size pieces and forms new glaciers, every new study gives a new numbers glaciers. However, it is worth noting that glaciers are not always huge- an ice body covering 0.1 square kilometres of land is called a glacier. Lamplugh Glacier is the most miniature glacier in Alaska, covering 13 km of land, and you can visit it at Glacier Bay National Park.

glaciers of Alaska

14. Trail of Glaciers

Like a car leaves its footprints on the mud road; similarly, glaciers leave their footprints and cause a trail of glaciers. Even if you cannot observe their movements, you can see traces. Due to their weight, they quickly move stones, minerals, and even large rocks along with them.

To see the footprints of the glaciers in Alaska, you can stop at Root Glacier Trail and Exit Glacier Trailhead. Along with the trails, you will be amazed to see the seabirds and seals around you. Also, the wildlife near these trails is worth seeing.

15. Longest Glacier

After Antarctica, Alaska has the longest glaciers, including Malaspina Glacier, Bering Glacier, and Hubbard Glacier. All of them cover more than 2,800 square kilometers of Alaska land. At the same time, Malaspina Glacier covers 3,363 square kilometers, and it’s quite challenging to state how old the glacier is due to its compound structure.

Malaspina Glacier is also one of the glaciers that formed due to the mingling of two glaciers that are Agassiz and Seward. That’s why it’s called a compound glacier or valley of glaciers. You can track down the glacier at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. While you can see the whole length of the glacier with the help of air taxi flights over the glacier, which are favorite activities among tourists.

16. Alpine Glaciers of Alaska

Alaska has a history of forming alpine glaciers. Alpine glaciers are precisely mountain glaciers. They compose in a cirque at a particular temperature, like heavy snow falling in winters and cool summers. Cirque is like a basin structure that more than two mountains create together.

Firstly, snow starts gathering at the cirque of the mountains, and continuous snow falling creates an Alpine glacier. When an alpine glacier becomes heavy due to its solid ice structure, it starts flowing down the valley, and if it receives a low temperature, it forms a glacier.

Alaska still has the beauty of the alpine glaciers, and you will find them at Matanuska Glacier. When you move from Anchorage towards the glacier, you will see many rock mountains from the car distance, and Alpine glaciers will be between them.

glaciers of Alaska

17. Crevasse in Glaciers

Another fascinating fact is that the glaciers of Alaska have crevasse that makes glaciers more dangerous for glacier travellers. A crevasse is a deep breakage that appears as a crack in the glacier. It forms due to extensive stress caused by the uneven flow of the ice body or due to collision with bedrock.

In Alaska, many glaciers have crevasses, but Kennicott Glacier, which comes under the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park of Alaska has crevasses on every step. If you’re visiting Kennicott Glacier, try to be careful because some crevasses are dangerous.

18. Earthquakes

Strangely, this majestic magnificence can cause alarming danger to the whole world. Likewise, recent research has shown that melting the glaciers and breaking the large glacier balls are causing earthquakes in Alaska.

The glaciers of Alaska carry the weight of thousands of feet thick ice blocks, and when this ice block falls speedily, it can cause up to 7.8 magnitude earthquakes. Yakutat Glacier in Alaska is one of the glaciers that caused tremors in the southeast region of Alaska.

19. Glacier on the Valley floor

Most of the world’s glaciers unearth their splendours in the mountains. However, Alaska has Matanuska Glacier on the valley floor instead of the hill. It is also famous as valley mountain.

An active glacier, Matanuska Glacier constantly enlarges its ice charm. It is also one of the glaciers that allow you to see the absorption of light (sunlight) besides blue light, thanks to the peculiar density of the ice.

20. Glaciers Have Textures

Another interesting fact is that glaciers don’t have a fixed shape. They keep moving from one end to another, and during this movement, they change their shape. Sometimes, the shape changes due to the high temperature, and the ice gets melted. However, some glaciers change their textures due to their scraping with other bedrock and cliffs. These scrapes cause crevasse, moulin and serac. 

The glacier and icefields of Patagonia in Alaska have changed their shape due to the high rate of ice melting. However, still, it’s a fascinating destination for the natives and tourists.

Final Thoughts– glaciers of Alaska

Wow, who knew there were so many fascinating facts about the glaciers of Alaska! If you have enjoyed reading this article, I am sure that you will love these too:

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