Find-A-Feature: Glaciers

Glaciers are large masses of ice on land that form in places where more snow accumulates in a year than melts. As they slowly move across the land, they erode large amounts of rock and leave distinct depositional features behind. Glaciers are generally classified as either continental glaciers or alpine (valley) glaciers, which are smaller. Today, continental glaciers only exist on the continents of Greenland and Antarctica. Discover more about glaciers at the USGS Glacier FAQ page and learn glacial terminology here

The USGS has been studying glaciers for over 100 years and has documented their change over time. Currently, glaciers across the globe are responding to our warming climate by retreating. USGS scientists in Montana's Glacier National Park (GNP) use repeat photography and other methods to track changes in glaciers. Learn more about glacier retreat (USGS Glacier Retreat Fact Sheet) and see for yourself how the glaciers have changed (GNP Melting Glaciers). The full USGS collection of repeat photographs of glaciers in GNP can be accessed here.

    Look closely at the snow or other everyday items around you. Can you find something that looks like a glacier? Stay tuned for additional Find-A-Feature challenges about erosional and depositional glacial features.

    Resources for teachers:

    Links (included above):  

    What is a Glacier FAQ - General FAQ about glaciers, full URL:

    Repeat Photography Teacher Trunk  - Educational resource with historical and modern photographs, full URL:

    GNP Melting Glaciers  - Glacier National Park page with a good overview of glacial retreat, plus an interactive slide bar, full URL:

    USGS Glacier Retreat Fact Sheet - USGS Fact Sheet 2019-3068, Glacier Retreat in Glacier National Park, Montana, full URL:



    We'll be watching Instagram and Twitter for some great #findafeature examples and may share them here with the first name or initials of the contributor, and a general location. If you tag us with @USGS_YES you are giving us permission to use your image. Please see the USGS social media sharing policy at: Or, you can e-mail photos to us at and we may share them on this page or on social media. Thanks for participating and for seeing science all around you!