Glaciers of the World

Benefits of glaciers

To many people, the most obvious benefit of glaciers is their scenic value, whether it be regions with modern glaciers such as the Alps or Western Cordillera, or regions that have long-since lost their glaciers, such as the English Lake District or many parts of the Rockies. There are also more tangible benefits, including water for irrigation and the generation of hydro-electricity. Furthermore, the sediments from glaciers themselves are valuable as a provider of underground water supplies. Images here depict some of these benefits.

Benefits of glaciers
One way of letting casual tourists emjoy glaciers is to excavate ice caves or ‘grottos’. This tunnel is beneath the Rhonegletscher, Switzerland, where the tunnel has to be rebuilt every year. JA
Benefits of glaciers
La Paz in Bolivia at around 3,700 m relies on water from the nearby Cordillera Real, as its immediate surroundings are arid. The state of health of these glaciers in a warming climate is therefore a matter of concern. The mountain is Huayna Potosi (6,088 m). JA
Benefits of glaciers
A complex series of irrigation ditches, as here on the slopes of Huascarán, Cordillera Blanca, Peru, support extensive agriculture during the dry season. Most water comes from the nearby glaciers. MH
Benefits of glaciers
In some areas of Switzerland, the waters are collected from several glaciers and sent via tunnels to one holding reservoir. Here the meltwater from Haute Glacier d’Arolla enters an intake and is then transferred via a tunnel into another valley. MH
Benefits of glaciers
Fog lends an eerie atmosphere to tourist boat trips on proglacial lake Jökulsaarlon, where icebergs have calved from receding Breidamerkurjökull, southern Iceland. MH
Benefits of glaciers
The Rhonegletscher ice grotto entrance site Switzerland. The melting back of the ice margin, typically several metres a year plus the lateral shift due to glacier flow, causes old tunnels to be abandoned. JA
Benefits of glaciers
A major tourist attraction near the town of Huaraz in Peru is the ice cap of Pastaruri, at a height of over 4500 m. Visitors are encouraged to take the available horses to minimise the effects of the high altitude. MH
Benefits of glaciers
Glacier snouts can be very dangerous. This sign at Franz Josef Glacier, South Island, New Zealand, warns tourists of the dangers of the collapse of the glacier portal, and the whole glacier frontal area is cordoned off. MH
Benefits of glaciers
With many of the world’s mountain landscapes being fashioned by glaciers, it is instructive to take students to areas with modern glaciers so that they can appreciate the processes forming the landscape. Here, a Swiss high-school student is surveying at Vadret da Morteratsch near Pontresina, SE Switzerland. Using modern laser ranging equipment it is possible, even for students, to measure ice flow with only a day or two. JA
Benefits of glaciers
One of the major benefits of glaciers in developed countries is their ability to provide a reliable water supply for hydro-electric power generation. Here a dam at Griesgletscher, Valais, Switzerland has been constructed to receive meltwater in summer for use in power generation in winter. During the extremely hot summer 2003 so much meltwater was available that power generation continued throughout the summer, when there was a shortage of electrical energy in central and southern Europe. JA
  
Photos: Michael Hambrey (MH), Jürg Alean (JA)