"Ice cap" can be loosely used for the systems of ice
the poles of certain planets (Earth
), or the continental ice
s covering Antartctica
, or the interconnected icefield
s of the Canadian Rockies and Patagonia
However the term really should be reserved for smaller Earthly glaciers
that completely bury the terrain. An ice cap looks and behaves like
a single, immense, chunk of ice.
Ice caps generally form as glaciers on the tops of individual mountains
grow and merge together, forming an icy collar all the way around the mountain.
If there is enough snow to sustain the cap's growth, the collar will grow until it covers the mountain's summit. Occasionally,
however, the mountain peak will poke through as a nunatak. Ice
caps from nearby mountains can merge together to form really big ice caps.
Such ice systems served as the cores of many continental ice sheets that
formed during Ice Ages in the past. When the ice sheets melted,
the core ice caps may have survived.
Today, ice caps are most commonly found on mountainous Arctic islands, since they have the terrain and climate to form
them, and the oceans surrounding them limit their growth. Some of these islands are mostly ice cap. However,
ice caps are also found in lower latitudes, if the mountains are high enough.
All right, it was probably silly to try to hunt down a list of world
ice caps, as any mountain that is the right height in a region cold enough
can grow an ice cap. However, I was interested in the monsters, such
as the type example of an ice cap, Iceland's Vatnajökull. And
you might as well have the benefit of the list of ice caps I pulled together
from various sources:
NOAA's World Glacier Inventory at http://nsidc.org/NOAA/wgms_inventory/
looked promising at first, but the variable quality of the data, collected
from various glacier-studying bodies in countries all over the world, made it useless for this particular effort.
Most importantly, Vatnajökull did not appear in the inventory of 67,000