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Rivers of Ice

This article first appeared in the July 31, 2020 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

Rivers of Ice

The Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. Photo by Sara Thompson

Rivers of Ice

By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise

There are countless forces that help shape our earth.  One process is slow and hard to see first-hand but has made some of the most spectacular landforms on the planet.  Glaciers covered much of the earth during the last Ice Age, advancing as far south as New England, New York, Montana, and Idaho.  All the glaciers in North America began retreating at the end of the last Ice Age, about 11,700 years ago, and are still retreating.

As a glacier is advancing, or growing, it picks up rocks and soil while it moves.  It also pushes the ground around it creating landmasses called moraines.  Lateral moraines run parallel to the glaciers, and a terminal moraine is the very end of a glacier's advancement before it begins to retreat.

When a glacier begins its retreat, it drops some of the rocks and soil it picked up, sometimes hundreds of miles away from where they were picked up.  There are large scour marks found in U-shaped glacial valleys and fjords around the world. Some scientists can take core samples of glaciers and study the debris found in glaciers.  Some of these core samples have even produced pollen of extinct plants.

There is a simple activity you can do at home that can help show glaciers shape the earth.  Spray a cookie sheet or tray with non-stick spray.  Sprinkle some flour over the cookie sheet and place an ice cube on one end.  Gently lift the end of the sheet or tray with the ice cube until it begins to slide.  Remove the ice cube and see how it has moved the flour on the tray.

The campers in our Earth Explorations Summer Science Camp this week learned about many forces that shape our earth including glaciers and rivers.  There are spaces still available in our August Summer Science Camps!  Registration available online at  Camp registration closes two weeks prior to the beginning of each camp.


Explorit's coming events:


•       Explorit Science Center has been providing hands- on science opportunities in Davis for 38 years!  Like many small businesses the closures have had a significant impact on our income.  Now is a great time to consider a donation to help Explorit continue to educate and inspire the scientists of tomorrow:


•       Continue to support Explorit during this uncertain time by becoming a member.  Membership grants you free visits to Explorit’s regular public hours, discounts on events, camps, and workshops, and gives you ASTC benefits.  For more information or to purchase or renew your membership visit or call Explorit at 530-756-0191.



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