Mapping of the World’s Glaciers Completed

Mapping of the World’s Glaciers Completed

Thanks to the efforts of an international group of scientists who have mapped all of the world’s glaciers, glaciologists can now study with unprecedented accuracy the impacts of a changing climate on glaciers worldwide, and determine their total extent and volume on a glacier-by-glacier basis. Overall, glaciers cover an area of about 730,000 km² and have a volume of about 170,000 km³. The main stimulus for completing the inventory was the recently-published Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).


Zhadang glacier Tibet, China
(c) Tino Pieczonka (TU Dresden)

“The rapid shrinkage of glaciers during the past 20 years is also well-recognizable in the Alps and other parts of the world” said Frank Paul from the University of Zurich, co-author of the study and also lead author of the first part of the IPCC report that was published in September last year in a press release.

The Randolph Glacier Inventory represents collaborative work of more than 70 scientists from 18 countries. The tight schedule of the IPCC’s assessment required rapid completion, which was accomplished largely through relying on the unsupported efforts of many volunteers with limited resources, the intensive use of satellite data and the application of geoinformatic techniques.

The already existing but incomplete database of GLIMS (Global Land Ice Measurements from Space) was an essential springboard and contributed the baseline dataset for the RGI. Several projects funded by space agencies such as ESA and NASA, the Framework 7 Programme of the European Union, and several Universities gave essential financial support to accomplish the RGI in time.

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