How much of the Earth's water is stored in glaciers?

About 2.1% of all of Earth's water is frozen in glaciers.

  • 97.2% is in the oceans and inland seas
  • 2.1% is in glaciers
  • 0.6% is in groundwater and soil moisture
  • less than 1% is in the atmosphere
  • less than 1% is in lakes and rivers
  • less than 1% is in all living plants and animals.

About three-quarters of Earth's freshwater is stored in glaciers. Therefore, glacier ice is the second largest reservoir of water on Earth and the largest reservoir of freshwater on Earth!

Related Content

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Tidewater glaciers of south-central Alaska
November 30, 2000

Tidewater glaciers of south-central Alaska

Present-day tidewater glaciers of south-central Alaska can be found in Prince William Sound and southern Kenai Peninsula. Icebergs form as portions of the glacier terminus collapses. Modern tidewater glaciers in Alaska are very small in comparison with massive glaciers that reached the sea during full glacial time. 

World map showing location of major ice bodies and estimated sea level rise contributed by their melting
November 30, 2000

World map showing location of major ice bodies and estimated sea level

When past sea levels were higher, where did the water come from? Here are the possibilities, with the amount of sea level rise they could provide now.

Image: Muir Glacier and Muir Inlet 1980
August 1, 1980

Muir Glacier and Muir Inlet 1980

This ship-deck-based August 1980 photograph of Muir Glacier and Muir Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, St. Elias Mountains, Alaska, shows the nearly 200-ft-high retreating tidewater end of Muir Glacier with part of its face capped by a few angular pinnacles of ice, called séracs. Note the icebergs in the ship's wake in the lower right side of the photograph.

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Attribution: Land Resources
All water on Earth in a sphere, placed over a "dry" globe
December 11, 2017

All water on Earth in a sphere, placed over a "dry" globe

This image shows blue spheres representing relative amounts of Earth's water in comparison to the size of the Earth. Are you surprised that these water spheres look so small? They are only small in relation to the size of the Earth. These images attempt to show three dimensions, so each sphere represents "volume." They show that in comparison to the volume of the globe,

Image: Layers of Ice, Hayden Glacier

Layers of Ice, Hayden Glacier

This picture was taken from the base of the Hayden Glacier in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area.

Attribution: Land Resources