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PhET Team, University of Colorado at Boulder


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Interactive Media
  • Charts, Graphs, and Tables
  • Activity - Classroom

Regional Focus

Global, Polar Regions


PDF, Microsoft Word

Glaciers Interactive Simulation

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  • In this interactive simulation, students will learn about how certain conditions such as precipitation and temperature affect glaciers. 
  • The simulation is available in many languages and teachers can access additional activities and resources to go with the simulation.
  • This resource is also included in the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network's (CLEAN) collection.
Teaching Tips


  • The simulation will help students understand glacier mass balances and the effects of climate change on glaciers because students can manipulate different parameters to see the effects over time.
  • Tools are provided in the animation to measure glacial thickness, glacier velocity, and glacial budget.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The activity page has other labs, lessons, and activities that can go with the simulation, but you must register for a free account to access them.
  • The simulation is not self-explanatory. Teachers will need to practice using the tool before showing students how to use it.
  • Some Mac/OS users may have trouble running the simulation.


  • The simulation has two different levels, introduction and advanced, for middle school and high school students.
  • The simulation is available in 35 languages. To view the simulation in another language, click on the Translations tab below.
  • After working with the simulation, students can write a paragraph explaining what they learned about glaciers from the simulation.
  • Math classes can use this simulation to estimate future effects by drawing a graph of the data and then using a best-fit line to estimate future conditions.
Scientist Notes
This web-based simulator allows students to see how rainfall rate and average sea level temperature can affect the growth of a glacier. These two factors are critical to the development of glaciers. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-4. Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
      • HS-ESS2-2. Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
      • HS-ESS2-5. Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes.
      • MS-ESS2-1. Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives plate tectonics.
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