For the Henry Brant musical composition, see Ice Field.

An ice field (also spelled icefield) is an area less than 50,000 km² (19,305 mile²) of ice often found in the colder climates and higher altitudes of the world where there is sufficient precipitation.[1] It is an extensive area of interconnected valley glaciers from which the higher peaks rise as nunataks. Ice fields are larger than alpine glaciers, smaller than ice sheets and similar in area to ice caps. The topography of ice fields is determined by the shape of the surrounding land forms, while ice caps have their own forms overriding underlying shapes.


Ice fields are formed by a large accumulation of snow which, through years of compression and freezing, turns into ice. Due to ice’s susceptibility to gravity, ice fields usually form over large areas that are basins or atop plateaus thus allowing a continuum of ice to form over the landscape and not be interrupted by glacial channels. Glaciers often form on the edges of ice fields serving as gravity-propelled drains on the ice field which is in turn replenished by the ice field’s snowfall.

While an ice cap is not constrained by topography, an ice field is. An ice field is also distinguishable from an ice cap because it does not have a dome-like form.[2]

Ice fields of the world


While not technically an ice field (a continental-sized ice sheet rather), Antarctica is extensively covered by ice.


There are a handful of ice fields in the Himalayas and Altay Mountains (the border range between the Central Asian Republics and China). One unexpected ice field is located in Yolyn Am, a mountain valley located in the northern end of the Gobi Desert.


There are no ice fields in Australia.

New Zealand has

  • Garden of Eden ice field
  • Garden of Allah ice field[3]
  • Olivine Ice Plateau[4]



The only large ice fields in mainland Europe are in Norway (e.g., Dovre and Jotunheimen). There are a several dozen small ice fields in the Alps and tiny remnants of permanent ice in Sweden, the Apennines, the Pyrenees and the Balkans.[6] Since the disappearance of the last remaining ice field in Andalucía, with the eventual disappearance of the Corral del Veluta glacier in 1913, the southernmost surviving permanent ice field in continental Europe is Snezhnika in Bulgaria.[7]

Beyond the mainland of continental Europe, there are substantial ice fields in Iceland, Svalbard and Franz-Josef Land and smaller surviving icefields on Jan Mayen and Novaya Zemlya.

North America

One of the more celebrated North American ice fields is the Columbia Icefield located in the Rocky Mountains between Jasper and Banff, Alberta. Easy access by road contributes to the status of this ice field as one of the most visited in North America, although it is actually a comparatively small ice field within the huge and largely ice-free America cordillera.

A large number of particularly expansive ice fields lie in the Coast Mountains, Alaska Range, and Chugach Mountains of Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory. The 6,500 km² Stikine Icecap (located between the Stikine and Taku Rivers) and the 2,500 km² Juneau Icefield (located between Lynn Canal and the Taku River) both straddle the British Columbian-Alaskan border. Farther north, the Kluane Icecap — which feeds the immense Malaspina and Hubbard Glaciers as well as the Bagley Icefield — sits upon the British Columbia-Yukon Territory-Alaska border and surrounds most of the Saint Elias Mountains as well as both Mount Saint Elias and Mount Logan; it extends as far west as the Copper River.

There are also large ice fields located in the Kenai Peninsula-Chugach Mountains area, such as the Sargent Icefield and the Harding Icefield. Throughout the Alaska Range there also large icefields (including one surrounding Denali), which are mostly unnamed.

South America

In South America, there are two main ice fields, Campo de Hielo Norte (translates to Northern Ice Field or Northern Patagonian Ice Field), in Chile, and Campo de Hielo Sur (translates to Southern Ice Field or Southern Patagonian Ice Field), shared by Chile and Argentina. There is also a small ice field on the western (Chilean) portion of Tierra del Fuego proper.

See also


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.