How much of Earth’s surface is covered with ice?

About ten percent of the world’s land surface is glaciated, or permanently covered with ice. Approximately 5,712,800 square miles (14,800,000 square kilometers) are covered by ice in the form of ice sheets, ice caps, or glaciers. An ice sheet is a body of ice that blankets an area of land, completely covering its mountains and valleys. Ice sheets have an area of over 19,000 square miles (50,000 square kilometers); ice caps are smaller. Glaciers are larger masses of ice that flow, under the force of gravity, at a rate of between 10 and 1,000 feet (3 to 300 meters) per year. Glaciers on steep slopes flow faster. The areas of glaciation in some parts of the world are:

Place Square Miles/Square Km
South Polar regions (includes Antarctica) 5,340,000/13,830,000
North Polar regions (includes Greenland) 758,500/1,965,000
Alaska-Canada 22,700/58,800
Asia 14,600/37,800
South America 4,600/11,900
Europe 4,128/10,700
New Zealand 391/1,015
Africa 92/238


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