Mountain Glaciers: Overview

Mountain glaciers influence people around the world—from the Andes and Alps to the Himalayas and Rockies. On the one hand, glaciers supply downstream communities, farmers, and industries with water and hydropower. The ice typically melts later in the season than snow, it melts all summer, and it acts like a long-term reservoir that stores the water for years or decades.

On the other hand, glaciers can also create hazards for nearby societies. Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) have in some cases increased with climate change, generating major risks for downstream communities. Rock-ice landslides and avalanches can also produce catastrophic disasters.

Given all these societal aspects of ice, we must think about glaciers not just as emblems or icons of climate change, but also as embedded in human societies and social systems.

Mountain Glacier Topics

Quebrada Cojup Mountains, Peru – Photo by Mark Carey.