A continuous sheet of land ice that covers a very large area and moves outward in many directions.
This type of ice mass is so thick as to mask the land surface contours, in contrast to the smaller and thinner highland ice. The continental glacier of Greenland is sometimes called the Inland Ice. This term is often used to describe the great ice masses that characterized the ice ages.
A mass of land ice that is sufficiently deep to cover most of the underlying bedrock topography, so that its shape is mainly determined by its internal dynamics (the flow of the ice as it deforms internally and slides at its base). An ice sheet flows outward from a high central plateau with a small average surface slope. The margins slope steeply, and the ice is discharged through fast-flowing ice streams or outlet glaciers, in some cases into the sea or into ice shelves floating on the sea. There are only two large ice sheets in the modern world, on Greenland and Antarctica, the Antarctic ice sheet being divided into East and West by the Transantarctic Mountains; during glacial periods there were others.