Glaciers, large masses of dense ice, are formed in high altitude regions where the accumulation of snow is far greater and faster than the melting process. Over time, the layers of snow crystallize and form ice. The process of formation of glaciers takes centuries and even millennia. Surprisingly, glaciers are not just a unique feature of the polar caps but they are also found in many non-polar regions of the world. High mountain ranges in the former USSR, Pakistan and the Americas are also home to some of the world’s largest non-polar glaciers. Below is a list of the seven longest non-polar glaciers in the world.
Fedchenko Glacier, Tajikistan
The world’s longest glacier outside the polar world is the Fedchenko glacier situated in the Central Asian country of Tajikistan. The glacier is around 45 miles long and covers an area of 350 square miles. The Fedchenko Glacier flows north from the ice field of Revolution Peak and receives ice from dozens of other smaller glaciers. The thickness of ice in the middle of the Fedchenko glacier is approximately 3,280 feet. The giant mass of ice can cover a distance of up 26 inches every day and forms the headstream of River Surkhab and the Amu Darya.
It was discovered in 1871 by a Russian expedition and is named after the Russian explorer A.P Fedchenko. Parts of this iceberg were explored later in 1928. Over time, the glacier has experienced a significant loss of ice. Climate change and global warming have dramatically reduced its size since the second half of the last century.
Siachen Glacier, Indo-Pak Border
The Siachen is the second-longest non-polar glacier in the world lying in the Karakoram Range near the border of India and Pakistan. It is 47 miles long and covers an area of 270 square miles. The region is home to many smaller glaciers and a number of fast-flowing surface streams.
Climate change has significantly affected almost every part of the world and the Siachen glacier is no exception. Between the years 1989 and 2009, this area of ice was reduced by 2.2 square miles. Human presence in the region has further accelerated the melting, as this mountain of ice has been a source of conflict between military conflict for decades. The highest battlefield on Earth provides freshwater which enters the River Indus of Pakistan and the Ganges in India.
Biafo Glacier, Pakistan
The Biafo Glacier is another long non-polar glacier located in the Karakoram range in Pakistan. The 40-mile long mountain in Gilgit-Baltistan meets Hispar Glacier, another 30-mile long glacier and forms the largest glacial system outside the polar region. This ice formation acts as a bridge between the two ancient kingdoms of the mountains; The Nagar and Baltistan. The Biafo glacier provides a trek with spectacular sights and traces of wildlife all along.
The glacial system is largely affected by the changing global climate. The rising temperature has destabilized the movement of these ice formations and have altered the level of rain and snowfall in the region; consequently, these changes have resulted in flooding and intense heat waves not only in Pakistan but in other neighboring countries as well.
Bruggen Glacier, Chile
The Bruggen Glacier, also known as the Pio XI Glacier, is located in southern Chile. With a length of 40 miles, it is the fourth largest glacier in the non-polar region and the longest glacier in the Southern hemisphere. The glacier continued to advance towards the sea and covered a distance of more than three miles between 1945 and 1976.
Despite being one of the largest glaciers in the nonpolar region of the world, the Bruggen glacier is one of the least studied glacial areas in the world. However, considering its pattern of movement, it can be concluded that the glacier experienced periods of enhanced movement followed by retreat periods. This effect is in addition to climate change which is negatively affecting the glaciers around the world.
Baltoro Glacier, Pakistan
The Baltoro glacier is located in the mountain range of the Karakoram in the Baltistan region of northern Pakistan. It covers an area of 23 square miles and the length of the centerline is more than 35 miles. The second highest mountain in the world, K2 is located around 7 miles north of the tongue of the main glacier.
Despite its location in a remote and politically unstable region of Pakistan, this glacier is extensively studied by geologists. This glacier is of unique importance to geologists because of extensive debris cover. 38% of the area of the glacier is covered with debris. When it comes to these types of ice formations, debris accumulation follows a certain pattern of increasing thickness. Ongoing landsliding and mud flow has led to an increase in the thickness of debris in the Baltoro glacier. As of now, the debris thickness in Baltoro glacier has reached almost 10 feet, which is a major concern for geologists.
South Inylchek Glacier, Kyrgyzstan and China
Another tourist-friendly destination, the South Inylchek Glacier is located on the borders of Kyrgyzstan and China. With a length of over 60 miles and more than 300 square miles, the Inyichek glacier is the sixth-longest nonpolar glacier. It is divided into two sections and covers more than 100 peaks of varying height with snow and ice.
It is a place of incredible natural beauty where climbers around the world can enjoy the trek along with breathtaking aerial views.