Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface

Cover image for Vol. 121 Issue 8

Impact Factor: 3.318

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2015: 27/184 (Geosciences Multidisciplinary)

Online ISSN: 2169-9011

Associated Title(s): Journal of Geophysical Research

New estimate of volume of glaciers worldwide


As climate warms, melting mountain glaciers are likely to significantly contribute to sea level rise over the next decades, but how much they will contribute remains uncertain, as the total volume of Earth's mountain glaciers is not precisely known. Some studies have estimated the total volume of water stored in glaciers worldwide using statistical techniques, but these studies do not take into account features of individual glaciers such as surface geometry and local climate. Other studies have used physically based methods to calculate ice thickness for small numbers of glaciers, but a worldwide, physically based study has not been done until now. Huss and Farinotti (2012) developed a new physically based approach to calculating the volume and thickness of glaciers worldwide (excluding the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets). They combined glacier outlines from the globally complete Randolph Glacier Inventory with data from digital elevation models and used a model that incorporates ice flow mechanics to calculate spatially distributed ice thicknesses of 171,000 glaciers around the world. They estimate that the total ice volume in these glaciers is 170 - 103 km3, equivalent to about 43 cm of sea level rise. This is less than the most complete previous estimate of the total ice volume in glaciers, which was 60 cm of global sea level equivalent. The new study could help improve the accuracy of future assessments of the contribution of melting glaciers to global sea level rise.

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