Glacier Geophysics

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Science  16 Oct 1964:
Vol. 146, Issue 3642, pp. 353-365
DOI: 10.1126/science.146.3642.353


From physical measurements on glaciers and experimental studies of ice properties a framework of concept and theory is being built which bids fair to place glaciers among the more quantitatively understandable phenomena in the earth sciences. Measurements of flow velocity, deformation and stress, ice thickness and channel configuration, temperature, internal structure of theice, mass and energy balance, and response to meteorological variables all contribute to this understanding, as do still other measurements hardly discussed here, such as electrical properties, radioactive age measurements, and detailed studies of chemical and isotopic composition. The obvious goals of this work—the interpretation of past and present glacier fluctuations in terms of changes in world climate, and the prediction of glacier behavior—remain elusive, even though a good conceptual groundwork has been laid for dealing with the more tractable aspects of these problems. Intriguing recent discoveries have been made about such matters as the way in which glaciers react dynamically to changing conditions, the inter-relations between thermal regime and ice motion, the structural mechanisms of glacier flow, and the changes produced in ice by flow. One can recognize in these developments the possibility that concepts derived from the study of glacier flow may be applicable to phenomena of solid deformation deep in the earth. In this way glacier geophysics may have a useful impact beyond the study of glaciers themselves.