The largest glacier in the world, Antarctica's Lambert Glacier, is one of the world’s fastest-moving ice streams. (Ice streams are parts of an ice sheet that move faster than the sheet as a whole.) Glaciers, like Lambert Glacier and other ice streams, are sometimes nicknamed “rivers of ice,” because—just like rivers—they flow from places of high elevation to low elevation. Glaciers flow with frozen water, while rivers flow with liquid. Lambert Glacier flows from the Antarctic ice sheet (on the interior of the continent) to the Amery ice shelf, a narrow inlet in East Antarctica. 
Information used in this map of Lambert Glacier was gathered with remote sensing technology. Remote sensing technology collects data about an object without making physical contact with it. To study Lambert Glacier, researchers relied on data collected using instruments on the Radarsat-1 satellite. The glacier is simply too isolated to conduct extensive in-person surveys.
This map tracks the movement, or flow, of Lambert Glacier. Yellow represents areas of the Antarctic ice sheet with no real movement, including areas of exposed ground with no ice cover at all. Green areas move 100-300 meters (330-980 feet) per year. Most of the Lambert Glacier moves between 400-800 meters (1,310-2,620 feet) per year. As the glacier extends across Amery ice shelf, velocities increase to 1000-1200 meters (3,280-3,937 feet) per year.
Instructional Ideas
(For older students) Consult National Geography Standard 1.2 (8th grade): How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information. The acquisition and organization of geospatial data to construct geographic representations.
Discuss geospatial technologies and geographic representations. 
Geospatial technologies might include:
• geographic information systems
• GPS devices
• maps
• graphs
• remote sensing—including radar, sonar, radio, and satellite imagery
Geographic representations might include:
• landscape: topographic and bathymetric features
• population
• climate or temperature
• speed and velocity of moving objects such as ocean currents or glaciers
Questions in the “Questions” tab explore velocity (tracked in the map) and interferometry (the method used to track velocity).
(For younger students) Consult National Geography Standard 1.4 (4th grade): How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information. The interpretation of geographic representations.
Discuss how geospatial information is communicated. Methods might include:
• a review of DOGSTAILS, or the elements of a good map, discussed in “Extending the Learning” in our activity “Important Places.”
• the use of color in maps
• the use of symbols, such as arrows, in maps
Questions in the “Questions” tab explore the importance of a map’s legend, or key.
  1. This image tracks the velocities of Lambert Glacier. Velocity is the rate of change in the position of an object—in this case, the glacier. Velocity is not the same thing as speed, although the two are closely related. Speed describes how fast an object is moving, while velocity also indicates the direction an object is moving. Why would scientists choose to measure the velocity, and not the speed, of Lambert Glacier? 

    • Answer

      Velocity allows scientists to calculate how different ice flows feed into the Lambert Glacier, and how the glacier moves across the ice shelf. Speed would only calculate how fast the glacier moved.

  2. The velocities of Lambert Glacier were calculated using a method called radar interferometry. Interferometric instruments on Radarsat-1 transmitted radiation to the targeted area on the glacier, which then reflected the radiation back into space. Other instruments on the satellite measured the reflected radiation. (This is the data used in the map.) Besides interferometry, what other methods of measurement evaluate signals reflected, or bounced back, from a transmitter? Where are these methods used?

    • Answer

      Interferometry is similar to radar and sonar techniques. Radar measures radio waves, and is frequently used in astronomy, meteorology, and communications. Sonar measures sound waves, and is often used in oceanography and underwater navigation.

  3. Scientists plotted their information on the velocity of Lambert Glacier on a map. How else could scientists have expressed this information? 

    • Answer

      Scientists could have used a graph or chart to measure the increasing and decreasing velocities of the glacier. They could track the location where each measurement was taken on one axis, and the velocity of the glacier at each location on the other.


one of the seven main land masses on Earth.

Plural Noun

(singular: datum) information collected during a scientific study.


acronym for parts of a map: Date, Orientation, Grid, Scale, Title, Author, Index, Legend, Sources.


height above or below sea level.


mass of ice that moves slowly over land.


thick layer of glacial ice that covers a large area of land.

ice shelf

mass of ice that floats on the ocean but remains attached to the coast.

ice stream

part of an ice sheet that moves faster than the ice around it.


small indentation in a shoreline.


to set one thing or organism apart from others.

remote sensing

methods of information-gathering about the Earth's surface from a distance.


object that orbits around something else. Satellites can be natural, like moons, or artificial.


a study or analysis of characteristics of an area or a population.


the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.