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Introduction to Nunatak

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If you ever see ice sheets, you must have observed some peaks or rocks above the ice sheet which are higher in elevation than the surrounding ice. Different types of landforms can be seen on the surface of the Earth and it is also one of them. If we talk about an island, it is a mountain body that is exposed above and surrounded by the water. Similarly, Nunatak is a kind of glacial island that is exposed above and surrounded by ice. In this article, we will talk about Nunatak. We will learn nunatak's meaning, its features, examples of nunatak glaciers in the world, etc. 


Nunatak Meaning

Nunatak is derived from the Inuit term "nunataq" which means lonely mountain in this American indigenous language. Nunatak is a rock or mountain that stands above the surrounding land of the ice sheet which is being glaciated. This kind of landform can be observed in the areas where a permanent ice sheet is there and nunataks are seen above the ice sheet. These are also known as "Glacial islands''.


Features

Some of the Features of the Nunatak Glacier are Given below:

  • Some of the Nunataks are isolated mountains or rocks whereas some are found in clusters as well. For example, Queen Lousie Land, Greenland.

  • They present reference points in ice caps or glaciers which can be identifiable.

  • In ice sheets, these are the only regions where vegetation can be observed.

  • Lifeforms here present unique habitats surrounded by ice sheets or glaciers.

  • These generally are angular in shape along with rough & spiky points because of these features accumulation of ice on the tops are hampered ( although snow accumulation can happen on them ).

  • It forms when the majority of the area is covered by the ice sheets or glacier which leaves the nunataks exposed above.

  • The height of nunataks can be 20 feet or even more i.e. hundreds of feet. In Antarctica, the height of nunataks may be over 1000 feet. 

  • They are found in the mountain regions where glaciers are there and these are found above the ice flows. They are also found where some former glacial activity has occurred in the mountain regions. Rocks & peaks with jagged surfaces can be found there along some of the areas below with smooth surfaces can also be found. 

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Nunatak Definitions

Some of the Standard Definitions are Mentioned Below:

  • "It is a hill or mountain completely surrounded by glacial ice." - Merriam-Webster

  • "It is a rock or a mountain that sticks up above the level of an area of ice or snow." - Cambridge dictionary.

  • "It is an isolated mountain peak projecting through the surface of surrounding glacial ice and supporting a distinct fauna and flora after the recession of the ice." Or "a hill or mountain that has been completely encircled by a glacier." Or "In Geology, it is an isolated mountain peak protruding through glacial ice."  - Collins dictionary.

  • "It is a rocky summit or mountain range that stands above a surrounding ice sheet in an area that is currently being glaciated." - Oxford Reference.

Examples

  • In Antarctica, some of the examples are Cook Nunataks, Andersson Nunatak, Lincoln Nunatak, Bergen Nunatak, Olander Nunatak, Bruna Nunatak, Bradley Nunatak, etc.

  • In North America, some of the examples are Anoritooq Nunatak, Borgtinderne, C. H. Ostenfeld Nunatak, Crown Prince Frederick Range, Graah Mountains, Lille Renland, Peary Nunatak, Packsaddle Island, etc.

  • In Eurasia, some of the examples are Lodalskåpa, Gora Severny Nunatak, Canisp, Stac Pollaidh, Suilven, etc.

Famous Nunataks

  • Suilven is one of the famous Nunataks found in Scotland which looks like a mountain when we see it from land whereas it looks like a pillar when we see it from the sea. 

  • Stac Pollaidh is also found in Scotland which is a mountain in the form of a ridge with smooth mountainsides that was carved out by glacial activity.

  • Svarthamaren is one of the large Nunataks found in Antarctica which is famous because of home to one million birds i.e Antarctic Petrel during the breeding season.


Conclusion

Thus, to sum up, in the end, we can say that nunataks are a kind of landforms that can be found where glaciers are there and observed above the ice sheets. These are considered the only place where vegetation, as well as life, can be observed in the ice sheets. They form like an island in the ice sheets and where glacial activity has occurred earlier which leads to the formation of nunataks. These can rise from 20 feet to hundreds of feet and also over 100 feet as well. In this article, we learned about nunatak glacier, nunatak meaning and definitions, its features and examples, etc. This article will help you to understand new kinds of landforms found in the mountain/ glacier regions.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What do you mean by Nunatak?

Answer. According to the Oxford reference, "It is a rocky summit or mountain range that stands above a surrounding ice sheet in an area that currently is being glaciated." In the Inuit language, the term Nunatak is derived from the term "nunataq" which simply means lonely mountain. The extended rock or mountain upwards which is surrounded by ice is called Nunatak and it is also known as Glacial islands and it can grow with a height of 20 feet and can also raise hundreds of feet whereas over 1000 feet nunataks can also be found in Antarctica.

Q2. How are Nunataks Formed? Give Some Examples of Nunataks.

Answer. It is generally formed when a glacier or ice sheet covers most of the surrounding area and leaves the nunatak exposed above. When a mountain is exposed above in the water, that is called an island. Similarly, it is also formed like an island on the ice sheets. Examples of nunataks are Cook Nunataks, Andersson Nunatak, Borgtinderne, Gora Severny Nunatak, Suilven, Bradley Nunatak, Peary Nunatak, etc.

Q3. What are the Features of Nunataks?

Answer. Some Nunataks are isolated mountains or rocks whereas some are found in clusters. In ice sheets, these are considered the only regions where vegetation can be observed. Lifeforms here present unique habitats which are surrounded by ice sheets or glaciers. These generally are angular in shape along with rough as well as spiky points and thus accumulation of ice on the tops are hampered. The height of nunataks can be 20 feet or even more i.e. hundreds of feet and even over 1000 feet in Antarctica. They are usually found in the mountain regions where glaciers are there.