Definitions for icefallˈaɪsˌfɔl
This page provides all possible meanings and translations of the word icefall
a steep part of a glacier resembling a frozen waterfall
A relatively rapid and turbulent flow of ice, somewhat analogous to a waterfall
a frozen waterfall, or mass of ice resembling a frozen waterfall
An icefall is a portion of some glaciers characterized by rapid flow and a chaotic crevassed surface. Perhaps the most conspicuous consequence of glacier flow, icefalls occur where the glacier bed steepens and/or narrows. The term icefall is formed by analogy with the word waterfall, a similar, but much higher speed, flow phenomenon. Most glacier ice flows at speeds of a few hundred metres per year or less. However, the flow of ice in an icefall may be measured in kilometres per year. Such rapid flow cannot be accommodated by plastic deformation of the ice. Instead, the ice fractures forming crevasses. Intersecting fractures form ice columns or seracs. These processes are imperceptible for the most part, however, a serac may collapse or topple abruptly and without warning. This behavior often poses the biggest risk to mountaineers climbing in an icefall. Below the icefall, the glacier bed flattens and/or widens and the ice flow slows. Crevasses close and the glacier surface becomes much smoother and easier to traverse. Icefalls vary greatly in height. The Roosevelt Glacier icefall, on the north face of Mount Baker, is about 730 metres high. The ice cliff of the left side of the ice fall and above the debris covering the glacier is 20 to 40 metres high. Typical of mountain glaciers, this icefall forms as the ice flows from a high elevation plateau or basin accumulation zone to a lower valley ablation zone. Much larger icefalls may be found in the outlet glaciers of continental ice sheets. The icefall feeding the Lambert Glacier in Antarctica is 7 kilometres wide and 14 kilometres long, even though the elevation difference is only 400 metres, a little more than half that of the Roosevelt Glacier icefall.
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