From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the topographical term. For the island, see Nunatak Island. For the band that played in Antarctica for Live Earth, see Nunatak (band).
Cântaro Magro, Serra da Estrela, Portugal, formed as a nunatak during the last ice age and now exposed[1]

A nunatak (from Inuit nunataq) is an exposed, often rocky element of a ridge, mountain, or peak not covered with ice or snow within (or at the edge of) an ice field or glacier. They are also called glacial islands.[2]

The term is typically used in areas where a permanent ice sheet is present. Nunataks present readily identifiable landmark reference points in glaciers or ice caps and are often named.

Lifeforms on nunataks are frequently isolated by the surrounding ice or glacier, creating unique habitats. Nunataks are generally angular and jagged because of freeze-thaw weathering[citation needed] and contrast strongly with the softer contours of the glacially eroded land after a glacier retreats. Although nunataks are not covered in glacial ice, snow can accumulate on them.

The word is of Greenlandic origin[3] and has been used in English since the 1870s.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vieira, G.T.; Ferreira, A.B. (1998). "General characteristics of the glacial geomorphology of the Serra da Estrela". In G.T. Vieira. Glacial and Periglacial Geomorphology of the Serra da Estrela. Guidebook for the field-trip IGU Commission on Climate Change and Periglacial Environments, 26-28 August1998 (PDF). pp. 37–48. Retrieved October 16, 2011. 
  2. ^ Physical Geography: Hydrosphere, 2006, ISBN 8183561675, p. 114
  3. ^ "Merriam-Webster: nunatak". Retrieved October 16, 2011.