Aspect is based upon the direction of flowline axis of the glacier. is flowline axis same as ice flow direction? What is aspect of a mountain (say in the tropics). Would a glacier have aspect different from the aspect of the mountain underlying the glacier?


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Aspect refers to the direction in which a surface is directed. A mountain will have different aspects depending on which slope you consieder so your notion that a mountain has a single aspect is not correct. Therefore a mountain slope in the tropics would still have aspects to the north, south, east, west and so on.

As for calculating the aspect of a glacier it can be a little complex. Smaller glaciers occupying a cirque or a valley will be simple to evaluate since it will be direction of the slope of the glacier, valley direction for a valley glacier. That said, it is not uncommon for a valley glacier to have several contributing cirques or side valley which by themselves will have different aspect from the main part of the glacier.

When considering larger valley glaciers the valleys in which they reside can have varying directions along the glacier length so that the aspect fo the glacier varies along its length. The extreme case will be an ice cap which like a solitary mountain will have aspects varying 360 deg depending on which part of the ice cap you study. Oftan ice caps are divided into separate catechments and this aspect is given for each of the catchment rather than the ice cap as a whole.

So aspect of a glacier will reflect the general flow direction of the glacier, reflecting the topography in which it is located, but it can be a very difficult parameter to evaluate for some cases.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, I was confused on how to guess the aspect of glacier by myself instead of relying on the 'aspect' function in arcgis. $\endgroup$
    – kc_nul
    Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 12:11

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