Ice on Earth

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My husband and I took turns driving the skidoo on top of the Vatnajokull ice cap.

Ice covers almost 15 million square kilometers of Earth’s land surface. That’s a lot of land! It helps keep Earth’s climate in balance (not too hot and not too cold). And it keeps Earth’s oceans at the levels we’ve come to expect (not too high and not too low). In other words, Earth’s ice is important to all living things.

So last summer, I decided to go check out some ice. I hopped on a plane to Iceland, then into a rental car, then into a 4-wheel drive jeep, then onto a skidoo to visit the Vatnajokull ice cap. It was AMAZING!


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This ice cap stays here year ’round. I took this photo in the middle of summer – still lots of ice.


Once you get up into the mountains, you see the ENORMOUS field of ice – very beautiful, very windy and cold, and VERY BRIGHT. Check out the video I took while on the top….  (Sorry about all the noise in the video. It’s very windy on an ice cap on top of a mountain!)

 That very white ice reflects the sun’s rays. The sun’s heat bounces back into the atmosphere, rather than being absorbed by the earth. That helps keep the planet from getting too warm. 

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This is my view of the ice cap on the top of the mountains, sitting on a skidoo.


 You can see this for yourself by shining a light toward hard-packed snow, and then shining a light toward a dark surface (such as black construction paper). See how the light is reflected off the snow, but not reflected off the darker surface?

When the classroom light is turned off, the students could see the light of the flashlight reflect off the snow and shine on the bottom of the trays.

When the classroom light is turned off, the students see the light of the flashlight reflect off the snow and shine on the bottom of the trays.


While in Iceland, I also flew over the Vatnajokull ice cap to get a bird’s-eye-view. 

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From the air, you begin to understand the enormous size of this sheet of ice.

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This is my view looking out the plane’s window. We’re looking at an ice cap.



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The views of the ice cap were stunning!



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Here’s a model of the Vatnajokull ice cap in Iceland to help you understand it. You can see it covers a large part of the southeast portion of the country.

The problem is that the ice is melting.  Scientists have evidence that Earth’s ice is melting. Global warming is the cause. Air pollution causes the world’s temperatures to rise. The warmer temperatures melt the ice.

Scientists measure the thickness of the ice by drilling down through it.

Here I saw scientists measuring the thickness of the ice by drilling down into the ice cap. The black you see in my photo is volcanic ash that has mixed with the ice.

The more Earth’s ice melts, the more heat our planet absorbs from the sun. (Apologies again for the wind noise.)

The less white ice we have to reflect the heat, the more Earth heats up. You can see where this is going, can’t you? Heating→ Melting → Heating→ Melting→Heating→ Melting→……

Chirpy and I are sitting in a glacial moraine. This area used to be covered by the glacier you see in the background.

Chirpy and I are sitting in a glacial moraine. This area used to be covered by the glacier you see in the background. It’s melting away, leaving grey rocks to absorb the sun’s heat. (No, I’m not having a bad hair day. It was very windy.)

We need Earth’s ice to keep our planet’s temperatures close to what they are now. All living things depend on Earth’s ice. 


Here's another area where the glacier used to be much thicker, and cover a much larger area. All the ground you see, including the ground I'm standing on, had been covered by the glacier for thousands of years.

Here’s another area where the glacier used to be much thicker, and cover a much larger area. All the ground you see, including the ground I’m standing on, had been covered by the glacier for thousands of years.

It’s important that we do what we can to reduce the amount of pollution we put in the air. When we reduce air pollution, we slow down global warming. That will slow down the melting of Earth’s ice. For ideas on ways you can help, click here.

At a recent science conference for teachers, a glaciologist showed us an ice core he collected from Antarctica. An engineer invented the drill that allowed the scientist to drill deep down to gather ice from thousands of years ago.

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A glaciologist from the United States Ice Drilling Program shows us an ice core from Antarctica.

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An engineer from the United States Ice Drilling Program shows us part of the drill that was used to capture the core of ice.


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Here’s a close-up picture of the piece of ice core all the way from Antarctica!

Can you see the bubbles in the ice core? What do you think caused these bubbles? What important information do they hold?

Click here for more information on ice cores.

112 thoughts on “Ice on Earth

  1. You could see that the ice was melting, that was so cool. I learned that a kind of snow mobile is called a skidoo. I also learned, that glaciers and ice caps are so big.

  2. When I was in 3rd grade my sister would come home and talk about global warming I thought that it couldn’t be warming the snow was there to prove it but now that I know more it becomes clear that the globe is warming gradually.

  3. I learned that it takes a while to get up onto the ice cap! I also learned that the glaciers melted that fast.(From under the ice, last video)

  4. I never knew ice was that important to use.The video of the skiddo looks super fun I’m totally tryind it.I never knew ice is melting that fast.The picture of theice core looks so cool I’m wondering how old it is?

  5. I learned that glaciers are melting quickly and are turning into small rivers because of global warming. And I learned that it’s very windy and cold on top of a cap. I also learned that you could drive skidoos on top of glaciers.

  6. It’s dangerous that the ice is melting from global warming. That is a problem because we are putting animals and ourselves in danger.

  7. I didn’t know ice was so important to Earth. Without ice, the world would be much hotter. Ice helps keep our planet cool. Ice reflects the sun’s rays and that’s how our planet stays cool. I am amazed by how ice is so important!!

  8. I never knew that Ice was so important!!! WOW!!!! I’v never seen a glacier in person, and in the pictures I can see that they’re really cool!!!

  9. I did not know Global warming is so powerful that it can melt a whole entire glacier. Also i never knew ice was so important and powerful!

  10. I didn’t know that people in Iceland depended on glaciers for clean water! I feel so bad because if all the glaciers melt and all the ice caps melt they wouldn’t have any fresh drinking water. 🙁 🙁

  11. Looking at the model of Iceland/ Vatnjokull I can see how big the ice caps is, but I thought the ice cap would be much larger since it doesn’t go anywhere. I can infer that the ice cap was much bigger before lots of that carbon dioxide got into the air and melted some of that ice.

  12. We can’t believe that in just 34 years a whole entire glacier melted and all that is left is the dirt and rock that used to be under the ice. We also think that it was crazy that in the mini ice cave it looked like a rainstorm

  13. I did not know ice was not that important. But now I can see why. It really keeps the world’s oceans not to high, not to low. One question though, what is a skidoo?

  14. Wow!, I never knew that the ice, glaciers, and snow covers (or it might be covered.)15 million square kilometers on the earth’s surface! That IS a lot of ice! I wonder how much snow and ice there will be on the earth’s surface in the future……

  15. Wow I never knew ice could be so cool well both ways. They find little bubbles of carbon dioxide and scientists study them. Its so awesome! I never knew that they are so big. Though there really cool there melting!! We need to stop global warming so the ice does not melt, sea level does not rise, and the towns do not flood!!

  16. Is a sad that most of the ice is melting and a alarming rate due to climate rise and global warming and if all ice melts it does lots like sea level rise.But scientist are helping that problem and that will make the world better

  17. I always new that ice melting is bad for the Earth but I never knew why, but now I do ice melting is bad for the Earth because ice helps reflect heat and light back into space. With less ice less heat and light gets reflected.

  18. This is really sad.I can’t believe that the glaciers are melting this much ❗
    However,I’m glad that the scientists are on the look and they’re trying to stop global warming. 😎 :mrgreen:

    • I also think it’s only sad but also bad because, when the Biosphere pollutes the Atmosphere then that affect the Hydrosphere witch floods the BIOSPHERE.

  19. WOW I never knew that ice had that much debris in side! It must be frigid year round. I can’t imagine it being that cold. I would never be able to live in weather like that. Now that looking at the video of the ice melting helps me realize how costly global warming is. The whole piece of ice was melting. After seeing how cold it was there global warming must be getting really serious.

    • I agree and the more the ice melts there is more water in the ocean and the ocean is a dark color so it will absorb more heat. Then, the earth will get warmer even faster and more ice will melt.

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