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.

Learn more: Status of Glaciers in Glacier National Park

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What is a Benchmark Glacier?

“ Benchmark Glacier ” refers to four North American glaciers that have been selected for long-term glacier monitoring that investigates climate, glacier geometry, glacier mass balance, glacier motion, and stream runoff. Benchmark glaciers monitored by the USGS are: Gulkana Glacier and Wolverine Glacier in Alaska South Cascade Glacier in Washington...

How do we know glaciers are shrinking?

Repeat photography and aerial / satellite photo analysis provide evidence of glacier loss in terms of shape and area. The USGS Benchmark Glacier project has collected mass balance data on a network of glaciers in Alaska, Washington, and Montana for decades, quantifying trends of mass loss at all sites. Extensive field data collection at these...
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Image: Retreating Glacier and Runoff from Glacial Melt

Retreating Glacier and Runoff from Glacial Melt

Retreating glacier south of Mt. Pendleton in Denali National Park, Alaska, with runoff from glacial melt seen in the foreground.

Attribution: Land Resources