Are there glaciers at the South Pole?

Asked by Olivia

Hi Olivia,

In fact, there are no glaciers at the South Pole. There is however a great ice sheet; ice sheets are masses of ice greater than 50,000 km2. At the South Pole, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is hugely thick, with the ice flowing slowly towards the coast.

The image below shows the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, with the ceremonial South Pole and the flags for the original 12 signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty.

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, with the ceremonial South Pole and the flags for the original 12 signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty

The South Pole is at 2835 m above sea level and lies 1300 km from the nearest open water (in the Bay of Whales). The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is 2700 m thick here. The South Magnetic Pole is where the Earth’s geomatnetic field lines are pointed vertically upwards. The South Geomagnetic Pole is the point where the axis of a best-fitting tilted dipole (like a bar magnet) placed at the centre of the Earth intersects the Earth’s surface in the southern hemisphere.

The South Pole in Antarctica may be hard to get to, but not as hard as the South Pole of Inaccessibility. This is the most remote place in Antarctica, being furthest from all coastlines. It is 878 km from the South Pole, 3718 m high (different means of measurement do place the South Pole of Inaccessibility in slightly different places).

The image below shows:

  1. South Geographic Pole,
  2. South Magnetic Pole (2007),
  3. South Geomagnetic Pole,
  4. South Pole of Inaccessibility

1: South Geographic Pole, 2: South Magnetic Pole (2007), 3: South Geomagnetic Pole, 4: South Pole of Inaccessibility

About

I am a Senior Lecturer at Newcastle Univeristy, specialising in glaciology and glacial geology. I wrote and developed the AntarcticGlaciers.org website as part of an ongoing commitment to outreach, education and research impact. Read more about me at www.antarcticglaciers.org/bethan-davies.

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