(Geography/Geomorphology)

"Ice cap" can be loosely used for the systems of ice covering the poles of certain planets (Earth and Mars), or the continental ice sheets covering Antartctica and Greenland, or the interconnected icefields 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: http://polarmet.mps.ohio-state.edu/Icecore/
http://www.viover60.com/lesestoff/reportasjer99/bre.html
http://glacierglen.dhs.org/

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 glaciers.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.