Lambert Glacier Glides Along

Lambert Glacier Glides Along

The largest glacier in the world is also one of the speediest.


3 - 12


Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Physical Geography, Earth Science, Climatology

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The largest glacier in the world, Antarctica's Lambert Glacier, is one of the world’s fastest-moving ice streams. (Ice streams are parts of an ice sheet that move faster than the sheet as a whole.) Glaciers, like Lambert Glacier and other ice streams, are sometimes nicknamed “rivers of ice,” because—just like rivers—they flow from places of high elevation to low elevation. Glaciers flow with frozen water, while rivers flow with liquid. Lambert Glacier flows from the Antarctic ice sheet (on the interior of the continent) to the Amery ice shelf, a narrow inlet in East Antarctica.

Information used in this map of Lambert Glacier was gathered with remote-sensing technology. Remote-sensing technology collects data about an object without making physical contact with it. To study Lambert Glacier, researchers relied on data collected using instruments on the Radarsat-1 satellite. The glacier is simply too isolated to conduct extensive in-person surveys.

This map tracks the movement, or flow, of Lambert Glacier. Yellow represents areas of the Antarctic ice sheet with no real movement, including areas of exposed ground with no ice cover at all. Green areas move 100-300 meters (330-980 feet) per year. Most of the Lambert Glacier moves between 400-800 meters (1,310-2,620 feet) per year. As the glacier extends across Amery ice shelf, velocities increase to 1,000-1,200 meters (3,280-3,937 feet) per year.

Instructional Ideas

For older students:

Discuss geospatial technologies and geographic representations. Geospatial technologies might include:

• geographic information systems

• GPS devices

• maps

• graphs

• remote sensing—including radar, sonar, radio, and satellite imagery

Geographic representations might include:

• landscape: topographic and bathymetric features

• population

• climate or temperature

• speed and velocity of moving objects such as ocean currents or glaciers

Questions in the “Questions” tab explore velocity (tracked in the map) and interferometry (the method used to track velocity).

(From National Geographic Standards Index: How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information; The acquisition and organization of geospatial data to construct geographic representations.)

For younger students, 4th grade:

Discuss how geospatial information is communicated. Methods might include:

• the use of color in maps

• the use of symbols, such as arrows, in maps

Questions in the “Questions” tab explore the importance of a map’s legend, or key.

(From National Geographic Standards Index: How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information; The interpretation of geographic representations.)

Media Credits

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National Geographic Society
Sean P. O'Connor
National Geographic Society
Last Updated

January 22, 2024

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