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🏔️ WHERE ON EARTH ARE GLACIERS LOCATED?

BY: RYAN ZERNACH

SUMMARY — Where are the largest glaciers located on Earth? At what elevation are the globe's glaciers? I used a combination of a mapping library and a GIF-creator library to showcase the answers to these two questions!


TECH STACK — Basemap (Mapping Library), imageio (GIF creator library), Numpy, Pandas, Matplotlib, Seaborn, Photoshop, Itertools, Libgeo


TEAM & TIME — Solo Project, Five Days


If you thought Antarctica was the world’s largest glacier, then guess again! You may be surprised to learn that Antarctica isn’t even a glacier in the first place: it’s an ice sheet — and so is Greenland. So what’s the difference between a glacier and an ice sheet?

NOTE: Illustration Courtesy of University of California

As explained in the illustration above, a glacier resides on land and an ice sheet floats atop the ocean’s surface (just like an ice cube floats in your favorite beverage). And an iceburg? Well, those are just miniaturized ice sheets. So where across Earth’s landmasses are the actual glaciers located? I have yet to see one in person!

NOTE: These are the locations of 130,000+ glaciers. Therefore, the top 1% are the locations of ~1,300 (pink) glaciers and the other 99% are the locations of ~128,700 (blue) glaciers.

Prior to analysis, I never imagined glaciers existing anywhere except perhaps the north and south poles — the Arctic and the Antarctic. What other glacial factors may affect where a glacier resides on Earth?

NOTE: Of the 130,000+ glaciers within this dataset, ~30% are (green) glaciers between 45°S-45°N, and ~70% are (yellow) glaciers that are either below 45°S or above 45°N.

Okay, great! The data has been split into green glaciers and yellow glaciers. Let’s take a look at the overall altitudes of these two subsets of data:

NOTE: The average elevation of the green subset of data is nearly two-and-a-half times the average elevation of the yellow subset of data.

To conclude, if you ever plan to go explore Earth’s natural, frozen beauties, then be prepared to trek to the most northern reaches, the most southern stretches, or the highest of altitudes — regardless, dress warmly!