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PhET Team, University of Colorado at Boulder


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


Science, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics

Resource Types

  • Interactive Media
  • Data
  • Activity - Classroom

Regional Focus

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 effect 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.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-1. Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
      • 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.
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