How many glaciers currently exist in Alaska?

Based on the most recent comprehensive survey in 2011, there were about 27,000 glaciers in Alaska. However, the number of glaciers is a misleading statistic. Scientists are more interested in total glacial land coverage as a measure. The number of glaciers is less important since large ones can split up into several as they retreat. The amount of area glaciers occupy in Alaska is trending downward. Roughly a third of Alaska’s glaciers have been given official names that can be found in the online Geographic Names Information System.  

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Which mountain in the conterminous U.S. has the most glaciers?

Mount Rainier, Washington, at 14,410 feet (4,393 meters), the highest peak in the Cascade Range, is a dormant volcano whose glacier ice cover exceeds that of any other mountain in the conterminous United States. Mount Rainier has approximately 26 glaciers. It contains more than five times the glacier area of all the other Cascade volcanoes...

How old is glacier ice?

The age of the oldest glacier ice in Antarctica may approach 1,000,000 years old The age of the oldest glacier ice in Greenland is more than 100,000 years old The age of the oldest Alaskan glacier ice ever recovered (from a basin between Mt. Bona and Mt. Churchill) is about 30,000 years old. Glacier flow moves newly formed ice through the entire...

Are today's glaciers leftovers from the Pleistocene ice age?

Yes and no. It depends on which glaciers you are considering. Parts of the Antarctic Continent have had continuous glacier cover for perhaps as long as 20 million years. Other areas, such as valley glaciers of the Antarctic Peninsula and glaciers of the Transantarctic Mountains may date from the early Pleistocene. For Greenland, ice cores and...

Do ice worms exist?

Yes, ice worms do, in fact, exist! They are small worms that live in glacial ice in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia; they have not been found in glaciers elsewhere. Contrary to stories and songs, they do not give glacier ice its blue color and they don't grow to lengths of 50 feet. (These myths were made popular by poet Robert...

Why is glacier ice blue?

Because the red (long wavelengths) part of white light is absorbed by ice and the blue (short wavelengths) light is transmitted and scattered. The longer the path light travels in ice, the more blue it appears.

Where are glaciers found in continental North America?

Glaciers exist in both the United States and Canada. Most U.S. glaciers are in Alaska; others can be found in Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Nevada (Wheeler Peak Glacier in Great Basin National Park). Reputedly, Utah’s Timpanogos Glacier is now a rock glacier (in which the ice is hidden by rocks), and Idaho’s Otto...

Where on Earth are temperate glaciers located?

A temperate glacier (as opposed to a polar glacier) is a glacier that’s essentially at the melting point, so liquid water coexists with glacier ice. A small change in temperature can have a major impact on temperate glacier melting, area, and volume. Temperate glaciers exist on the continents of North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and...

How would sea level change if glaciers melted?

If all of the glacier ice on Earth were to melt, sea level would rise ~ 80 m (~ 265 ft), flooding every coastal city on the planet. If all of Earth’s temperate glaciers melted, sea level would rise ~ 0.3–0.6 m (~ 1-2 ft). If all of Greenland’s glaciers melted, sea level would rise ~ 6 m (~ 20 ft). If all of Antarctica’s glaciers melted, sea level...

What are the impacts of glacier loss, other than losing an aesthetic landscape feature?

Glaciers act as reservoirs of water that persist through summer. Continual melt from glaciers contributes water to the ecosystem throughout dry months, creating perennial stream habitat and a water source for plants and animals. The cold runoff from glaciers also affects downstream water temperatures. Many aquatic species in mountainous...

Is there a size criterion for a glacier?

While there is no global standard for what size a body of ice must be to be considered a glacier, USGS scientists in Glacier National Park use the commonly accepted guideline of 0.1 square kilometers (about 25 acres) as the minimum size of a glacier. Below this size, ice is generally stagnant and does not have enough mass to move.

What is a glacier?

A glacier is a large, perennial accumulation of crystalline ice, snow, rock, sediment, and often liquid water that originates on land and moves down slope under the influence of its own weight and gravity. Typically, glaciers exist and may even form in areas where: mean annual temperatures are close to the freezing point winter precipitation...
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Date published: May 10, 2017

Glaciers Rapidly Shrinking and Disappearing: 50 Years of Glacier Change in Montana

The warming climate has dramatically reduced the size of 39 glaciers in Montana since 1966, some by as much as 85 percent, according to data released by the U.S. Geological Survey and Portland State University.

Date published: September 28, 2016

Fifty Years of Glacier Change Research in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the longest continuous glacier research efforts in North America.

Date published: March 18, 2015

From Icefield to Ocean - What Glacier Change Might Mean for the Future of Alaska

Frozen bodies of ice cover nearly 10 percent of the state of Alaska, but the influence of glaciers on the environment, tourism, fisheries, hydropower, and other important Alaska resources is rarely discussed.

Date published: January 20, 2015

Melting Glaciers Increase the Flow of Carbon to Downstream Ecosystems

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Melting glaciers are not just impacting sea level, they are also affecting the flow of organic carbon to the world’s oceans, according to new research that provides the first ever global-scale estimates for the storage and release of organic carbon from glaciers.

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Gilkey Glacier, Juneau Icefield, Alaska
December 31, 2017

Gilkey Glacier, Juneau Icefield, Alaska

Interactions between glaciers, bedrock, and surface debris on the Gilkey Glacier, Juneau Icefield, Alaska.

Glacier off Sargent Icefield
December 31, 2017

Glacier off Sargent Icefield

Landscape view of an un-named glacier off the Sargent Icefield, directly across from Wolverine Glacier, above the Nellie Juan River, in Alaska. Taken during a visit to a wolverine glacier field site as part of a study to examine how alpine areas are changing as temperatures rise in Alaska. 

Alaska Interior mountain range shot with snow capped mountains.
December 31, 2016

Alaska Interior Mountain Range

Alaska Interior mountain range shot with snow capped mountains. 

Photo flat glacier surface, Juneau Icefield, Alaska
December 31, 2016

Flat glacier surface, Juneau Icefield, Alaska

An ideal ice core site is the highest, flattest glacier in a region. In 2016, a transect of 7-9 m ice cores was drilled on the Matthes Glacier, Juneau Icefield to determine if recent fires are affecting the glacier surface. (Photo: Lucas Foglia, used with permission)

Llewellyn Glacier, Juneau Icefield
December 31, 2016

Llewellyn Glacier, Juneau Icefield

The rapidly degrading Llewellyn Glacier, Juneau Icefield.

Crevices on glacier, Juneau Icefield
December 31, 2016

Crevices on glacier, Juneau Icefield

Crevices on glacier, Juneau Icefield

South Crillon Glacier
June 5, 2016

South Crillon Glacier

Periodic calving of ice from the snout of South Crillon Glacier.

The survey party begins their ascent to the summit from the Kahiltna glacier, looking up at the summit of Denali. (Photo: Blain
April 18, 2016

Kahiltna glacier

Photograph of the Wolverine Glacier, Kenai Mountains, Alaska taken at sunrise in the fall of 2013.
April 8, 2016

Photograph of the Wolverine Glacier, Kenai Mountains, Alaska taken at sunrise in the fall of 2013.

Photograph of the Wolverine Glacier, Kenai Mountains, Alaska taken at sunrise in the fall of 2013.

Image: Surprise Glacier
August 22, 2008

Surprise Glacier

Surprise Glacier, Harriman Fiord, western Prince William Sound.

Image: Cataract Glacier
August 21, 2008

Cataract Glacier

Cataract Glacier, Harriman Fiord, western Prince William Sound, AK.