Glacier Cave

Glacier Cave

Glacier Cave Landforms Have 2 Main Characteristics:

  1. A cave formation in ice
  2. Formed at the bottom of a glacier

Example of a Glacier Cave Landform:

Kverkfjöll Glacier Cave, Iceland
The glacier cave picture above is from Vatnajokull, Iceland

What is a Glacier Cave Landform?

A glacier cave is a cave formation in the ice at the bottom edge of a glacier.

How are Glacier Caves Formed?

Meltwater from the glacier in warmer temperatures can transfer heat to the bottom of the glacier and cause melting. This can form a space above the ground where an opening may form at the glacier’s edge. A glacier cave can also be formed by geothermal heat in the ground below a glacier.

Warm air during the summer can enter and increase the size of a glacier cave. Where a glacier meets a body of water, wave action can form a glacier cave that may be partially submerged.

How Large is a Glacier Cave?

A glacier cave may begin as an opening large enough for one man. A glacier cave system that existed on Mount Rainier of Washington State had over 8 miles of passages as measured in 1978. The cave system has collapsed since then and the glacier has retreated.

Where Can a Glacier Cave Be Found?

Glacier caves may be found at the lower edge of a glacier, especially during the summertime.

Famous Glacier Caves

• Paradise Ice Caves, Mount Rainier, Washington
• Kverkfjöll Glacier Cave, Iceland
• Sandy Glacier Caves, Mount Hood, Oregon

The Paradise Ice Caves of Mount Rainier were an extensive system of ice caves that collapsed and dissappeared in the 1990’s. Kverkjökull and Vatnajökull Glaciers in Iceland have glacier caves that are created by geothermal heat caused by volcanic activity. During the 1980’s, the Kverkfjöll glacier cave found at Vatnajökull Glacier was measured to be 1.7 miles long and 1722 feet high.

Sandy Glacier Caves are a system of 4 glacier caves in Sandy Glacier on Mount Hood in Oregon. At over one mile in length, they may be the largest glacier caves now in the lower 48 states. They are expected to disappear within a decade from melting.

Glacier Cave definition:

A cave formation that is created in the ice at the bottom of a glacier.

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