Nunatak Landforms Have 2 Main Characteristics:

  1. Mountain peak or rock formation
  2. Above a glacier or ice sheet

Example of a Nunatak Landform:
Suilven Mountain, Sutherland, Scotland
The nunatak picture above is coming from a glacier from an unknown place.

What is a Nunatak Landform?

A nunatak is a mountain peak or other rock formation that is exposed above a glacier or ice sheet. The word is also used to describe the top portion of a mountain peak or other rock formation that is above an area carved by glacier movements. A nunatak experiences freeze-thaw erosion that breaks off portions of rock, forming a jagged surface above the glacier-carved smooth portion below.

How are Nunataks Formed?

A nunatak is formed when a glacier or ice sheet covers the majority of a mountain peak or other rock formation, leaving the nunatak exposed above.

How Large is a Nunatak?

A nunatak may rise only 20 feet above the ice, or reach upward for hundreds of feet. Large nunataks in Antarctica may stand over 1000 feet above the surrounding ice.

Where Can a Nunatak Be Found?

In mountain regions that have glaciers, nunataks can be found above ice flows. In some areas of Antarctica, nunatacks are visible above the ice. In mountainous regions nunataks may have been created where there was former glacier activity. There may be peaks and other rock formations with jagged surfaces, while further below, the rock has been carved by glaciers and has a smooth appearance.

Famous Nunataks and Facts

• Suilven Mountain, Sutherland, Scotland
• Stac Pollaidh, Northwest Highlands, Scotland
• Svarthamaren Mountain, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica
• Aviator Nunatak, Antarctica

Suilven is a mountain in Scotland that appears like a tall pyramid when viewed from the land, and as a pillar when viewed from sea. Below, the rock was carved by glacier flows, leaving the distinctive peak above.

Stac Pollaidh is another mountain of Scotland in the Northwest Highlands, in the form of a ridge with many pinnacles and smooth mountainsides below that were carved by glacier activity. Svarthamaren Mountain is a large nunatak above a glacier in Queen Maud Land of Antarctica, and is home to up to one million birds during the breeding season for the Antarctic Petrel.

South Polar Skuas and Snow Petrels are two endangered bird species that also breed there. Aviator Nunatak is a large example in Antarctica that was named for Rear Admiral Richard Byrd and his men who flew to the South Pole in 1929.

Nunatak Definition:

A mountain peak or other rock formation that stands above a glacier or ice sheet.

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