How does ice shape the land?

A glacier is a huge mass of ice that moves slowly over land. Glaciers shape the land through processes of erosion, weathering, transportation and deposition, creating distinct landforms.

Erosion: The two main types of erosion are abrasion and plucking.

  • Abrasion: rocks that have been frozen into the base and sides of the glacier scrape the rock beneath. The rocks scrape the bedrock like sandpaper, leaving scratches called striations behind.
  • Plucking – rocks become frozen into the bottom and sides of the glacier. As the glacier moves downhill it ‘plucks‘ the rocks frozen into the glacier from the ground.

Weathering: During the day when temperatures are higher, the snow melts and water enters the cracks in the rock. When the temperature drops below 0°C the water in the crack freezes and expands by about 9 per cent. This makes the crack larger. As this process is repeated through continual thawing and freezing the crack gets larger over time. Eventually, pieces of rock break off.

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