001 - Snowflake to Glacier

Factual Questions

How do Alpine glaciers gain and lose mass?

Key Terminology

We will be defining and using the key terms above throughout the course of the lesson. If you still aren't sure what they mean at any point in the lesson then click on the 'Useful Links' below and they will help you.

Useful Links

Activity One - The Geography of Awe and Wonder

A unit of inquiry which explores glaciers, their associated landforms and the impact of climate change for some of you may not seem that exciting. I am here to change your mind.  

Useful Resources


See, Think, Wonder

Visible Thinking Routine

See, Think, Wonder

Activity Two - Why?

As always I think it is important to understand why we are undertaking a unit of study about glaciers. Yes, we live close (at the moment) to glaciers and they have helped to shape the environment in which we live but so what? Why are they important to us?  Collect a copy of the worksheet below and by using the National Geographic YouTube clip fill it in. 

Useful Resources

Climate 101: Glaciers

National Geographic

What are glaciers and why are they important

What are glaciers and why are they important?


Activity Three - From Snowflake to Ice

We have so far looked at why some people may think glacial environments are amazing and how they can be categorised. We are now going to formalise our understanding of how glaciers are formed. 

Useful Resources

How do glaciers form?


National Snow and Ice Data Center

Snow to Firn to Glacier Ice


Activity Four - Gain and Loss

Depending on the season, temperatures and available precipitation glaciers can both grow in size and lose it. The location in which the glacier is gaining new snow and ice this is called the accumulation zone. It can often be found in the upper part of the glacier. The area in which the glacier is losing mass by melting is called the ablation zone. This is generally found at the end of the glacier called the snout. The point at which the glacier is neither gaining or losing mass is called the equilibrium line. It separates the zones which are accumulating ice or losing it. If the equilibrium line is high up the valley or mountain then the glacier is generally shrinking in overall size. This is what we are currently seeing here in Europe. 

Useful Resource

Image taken from the Canadian Cryosphere Watch