May 21, 2022

Why Is Ice in a Glacier Considered to be a Mineral?

by Brad

There are more than a hundred thousand glaciers in Alaska.

Most of them are larger than the size of a football field.

Many of us ask why ice in a glacier is considered a mineral as scientists classify it as a mineral.

We will discuss many aspects of the glaciers and their classification as minerals.

Table of Contents

Is Ice in Glacier a Mineral?

Yes, ice in the glacier is a mineral. Ice in the glaciers is on the list of minerals because it satisfies all four requirements of the mineral classification.

  1. Glaciers are naturally occurring as they formed millions of years ago without interventions from humans.
  2. Glacial ice has a crystalline form as snowflakes combine to make larger crystals in glaciers.
  3. Glaciers have a specific chemical structure as it forms from the ice crystals.
  4. The most crucial aspect is the solid state. 
Why Is Ice in a Glacier Considered to be a Mineral
Why Is Ice in a Glacier Considered to be a Mineral?

You can further read why ice is a mineral and why ice is sometimes considered a rock (did we already catch your attention).

Why Is Ice in a Glacier Considered to be a Mineral but the Water in the Glacier Is not?

Ice in a glacier is considered to be mineral, but the water in the glacier is not because minerals need to be solid. One of the four requirements to be a mineral is the solid form.

Liquid cannot be a mineral as it does not satisfy all the requirements to be a mineral. Water does not have a crystalline structure as the molecules are available in a random pattern.

When the snowflakes come on the rock base of the glacier, they deposit on it due to pressure.

Related Article: What Evidence Is There That the O’Higgins Glacier Is Being Affected by Global Warming?

Why Is Ice a Mineral and Water not a Mineral?

Ice is a mineral, and water is not a mineral because minerals need to be solid and have a crystalline form. Water fulfills the other two requirements of the mineral classification as it has a specific chemical composition.

It consists of two hydrogens and one oxygen atom. Water has a natural source as water covers more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface.

Only ice fulfills the other two requirements as it has a crystalline structure. It is available in solid form.

Related Article: Can You Drink Glacier Water? The Definitive Answer

Is Glacier Ice a Type of Rock?

Yes, a glacier is a type of rock. Rocks are made of minerals. Glacier ice is a mineral because it forms from the metamorph process of snowflakes.

The metamorph process starts when there is a base layer of the glacial ice. The snowflakes have one central structure and six arms.

These arms combine with the glacial base due to the pressure from the snow layers from above. A single ice crystal can reach the size of a golf ball in the glaciers.

Related Article: Where Are the Biggest Glacier Outside of Antarctica?

What causes striations? Is it sediment in ice that is dragged along bedrock surfaces, or is it the glacial ice scraping away rock layers, and why?

Striations are caused by the clasts embedded in the ice and protrude from the ice surface. As the glacier moves, the embedded rock will make striations on the bedrock.

It is almost impossible for the ice to make striations on the bedrock surface because it is softer than the bedrock.

Ice in a Glacier is Considered to be a Mineral
Ice in a Glacier is Considered to be a Mineral

What are the differences between sea ice and glacial ice?

Glacial ice does not have salt, while sea ice has a high salt concentration.

The sea ice is thinner than the glaciers as the glacial ice can have a thickness of thousands of feet. The glacial ice is made of the water on the land.

What is the difference between glacial ice and normal ice?

Glacial ice is a mineral, while the ice you make in your home is not a mineral as it does not have a natural source.

The other difference is how the glacier form is different from the normal ice. Glaciers form when snow falls on the bedrock and does not melt away.

New layers of snow come on the top to exert more pressure to join the snowflakes. You can make normal ice by reducing the water temperature below zero degrees celsius.

Related Article: Water Frozen in the Cracks of a Rock Breaks the Rock

What is the main difference between firn and glacial ice?

Firn is the top layer of the glacier that needs pressure to become part of the glacier. The pressure will come from the snowfall later.

There are four stages for the snow to become part of the glacier. We have snow that fell in the same season in the first stage.

The snowflakes will convert to granular snow in the second stage. If this snow survives in a season without melting, it is known as firn.

Firn is in granular form as it has medium-sized ice crystals. These crystals will join the glacier when more snow exerts pressure on the firn.

Related Article: What Happens When a Glacier Encounters the Sea?

How long does it take for glacial ice to re-form?

It takes hundreds of years for the glacial ice to re-form. To understand the reformation of the glacial ice, you need to learn how the glaciers form.

The process starts when the snow falls on the glaciers. A snowflake has a small core with six arms. This snow will stay on the glacier to convert to the larger granules.

It will take almost one year for the ice to come to the firm stage as snow has to stay on the glacier for one year to convert to the firm.

When more firn forms every year, it pressurizes the lower layers of the firn to join the glacier crystals. You can see a few inches of glacier surface growth in many years.

If a glacier has lost most of its ice, you may need hundreds of years to re-form it.

Related Article: Which are the Hardest Mountains to Climb in the World?

Is glacial ice plastic, elastic, brittle, or ductile at the top of the ice body? What about beneath the ice body by 50 meters, and why?

Glacial ice is brittle at the top of the ice body. It has ductile properties beneath the ice body by 50 meters. The top surface is brittle because the firn forms weaker ice crystals at lower pressure.

There is not enough pressure from above at the top layer to give the crystals a bigger size and strength. As you go down 50 meters, it forms larger crystals.

We say that it shows ductile properties because layers of glacial ice flow towards the zone of lower accumulation without losing strength.

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Last Updated on March 15, 2023 by Roger

About the author


Brad is a professional climber in the discipline of traditional climbing. He often jokes that he can get a book to read during the long climbs. Of course, it always goes well with a good cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is his safer hobby.

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