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Difference between Glacier and Iceberg

Glacier and iceberg both are huge masses of snow, so people often use these terms interchangeably while referring to huge snow masses. Although glacier and iceberg share many features, they are different from each other in terms of their size, shape, formation etc. Let us see how they differ from each other!


Glacier is a huge mass of ice. It is formed by the continuous deposition of snow and the transformation of that snow into ice. It is formed when the rate of deposition of snow is far greater than the rate of ablation. With the time, the ice transforms into sugar like granules. The granules grow larger with time and thus compress the air pockets present between them.

Glacier is the largest reserviour of fresh water on Earth. They produce a thunder like sound whey they break apart and some of their parts float in the water in a process called calving.

Glaciers are mostly found in the Polar Regions and mountain ranges of almost all continents. Furthermore, the glaciers are monitors of climate conditions and the process of their growth and establishment is called glaciations.


Iceberg is a huge mass of ice that floats freely in water of the oceans or seas. They are parts of the glacier that break off from glaciers and float freely in the ocean. They float in oceans under the effects of winds or ocean currents. They vary greatly in shape and size, e.g. some icebergs are larger in size than small glaciers.

Generally, 10% of the iceberg remains visible above the water and the remaining part remains submerged in the water. Smaller icebergs, which are known as bergy bits and growlers are harder to spot so may be dangerous for ships.

Based on the above information, some of the key differences between glacier and iceberg are as follows:

Glacier Iceberg
It is a massive, permanent mass of ice that is much larger in size than an iceberg. It is a huge mass of ice that floats freely in seas or oceans.
It does not vary too much in shape and size. It can be of various shapes and sizes, e.g. ice-cube sized chunks to ice islands.
It is formed when the rate of deposition of snow is more than the rate of ablation. It is formed when chunks of ice break off from glaciers.
It continues to grow with time as long as the snow keeps depositing and the rate of ablation is low. It does not grow with time and may melt away with time.
It is located on the land so it is completely visible, from top to bottom. It is found in water with 90% of it submerged in water and the rest of it remains above the water level.
It does not move or remains fixed at one place. It may float with winds and ocean currents.
It is a permanent body of ice on land. It is a temporary body of ice in the water.
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