Exploring present-day glaciers in a GIS


This is a free GIS app that you can use to explore the glaciers and sea ice around Antarctica. Quantarctica is easy to use ,and includes base maps, satellite imagery, glaciology and geophysics data from data centres around the world, prepared for viewing in QGIS.

Quantartica is probably suitable for more advanced users, at post-16 or in Higher Education.


Google Earth

Google Earth has fabulous satellite images of Antarctica, Iceland, Patagonia, the UK and everywhere else in the world. It lets you explore the continent from the comfort of your sofa. There are fabulous images of crevasses, glaciers, moraines and more.  Google Earth pro allows you to map directly in Google Earth, so you could set a task identifying and mapping moraines, for example.

This can be a great and simple practical to set up, for both introductory levels and at post-16 and for students in Higher Education as well.

Drumlins around lago Viedma, South Patagonian Icefield. The background image is Landsat 7 ETM+ from 2001. Mapped in Google Earth Pro.

Explore Scott’s hut through the Google World Wonders project.

WGMS Fluctuations of Glaciers

The World Glacier Monitoring Service has created, in association with ESRI ArcGIS, a browser for investigating the fluctuations of glaciers.

The data are overlain on Google Earth imagery, but you can also choose Bing roads, OpenStreetMap and a variety of other basemaps.

This is a great introductory tool for post-16 students.

When you zoom into an area, you see circles with numbers in. Clicking on these circles brings up a popup with information about the glacier, including glacier length change over time. Clicking on the graph opens it fully in another tab.

This is a really interactive way of learning all about glacier length fluctuations and glacier recession over time. How fast are glaciers receding? Where are they receding fastest? Get the students to think about how the data are created, how reliable the data are, and how consistent the story of glacier recession is.

Randolph Glacier Inventory

From the Randolph Glacier Inventory you can download GIS shapefiles for all the glaciers in the world. Set a practical exploring the glaciers of different parts of the world, or compare the glaciers to the LGM mapped in the Quaternary Glaciations: extent and chronology book.

Overlay the glaciers on satellite images (e.g. Landsat images are freely available from NASA) for a wonderfully immersive practical for the students.

You can also explore the data and select glaciers to download using the GLIMS Viewer.

This is a resource probably best suited to university undergraduates.

GLIMS/RGI Glaciers showing current worldwide glacier extent.

Land Viewer

This subscription service developed by EOS is a satellite observation imagery tool aimed at industry and business use. High-resolution images ranging from 0.4 meters per pixel can be purchased at a reasonably low cost. This online program has a range of useful GIS tools, with the potential to produce timeseries data and timelapse animations. A free version of Land Viewer is available, with access to several features and a limit to downloads.

Land Viewer

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