Glaciers have two main zones, or sections. The first zone is known as the accumulation zone. This is just what it sounds like. It is the part of the glacier that is building up or accumulating, the area that gets bigger in size and depth. The second zone is called the ablation zone. This is the part of the glacier that is shrinking.
Accumulation zone = more snow and ice Ablation zone = less snow and ice
Glaciers increase in colder periods when lots of snow falls. That's easy to remember! Glaciers decrease by 1) melting, 2) sublimation (evaporation of the
water in ice that goes directly to a gas and doesn't become liquid in between), and 3) calving (small glacier pieces breaking off). Actually, glaciers contain sections that grow and shrink within the same glacier. Fig. 7-1 shows the different glacier zones and their location within a glacier.
The line between accumulation and ablation zones is called the equilibrium line. This is the boundary where the new glacial material added and old glacial material lost is balanced. This equilibrium line changes with the seasons. When more snow and ice are added in the winter, accumulation is at its highest. The reverse is true for ablation. The greatest amount of ablation takes place when temperatures rise in the hot summer months.
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