RAGMAC WP2: Three part series on glacier mass changes from satellite altimetry and gravimetry

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RAGMAC WP2: Three part series on glacier mass changes from satellite altimetry and gravimetry

Gardner, Alex S (329A)

Dear Cryo people,

The IACS working group on Regional Assessments of Glacier Mass Change (RAGMAC) will be hosting a series of 3 talks on topics related to glacier mass changes from satellite altimetry and gravimetry.

WP2 Presentation 1 – ICESat-2

When: Tuesday, October 20 @ 8am PT, 11am ET, 5pm CET

What: An introduction to ICESat-2 for glacier studies and a showcasing of early results.

Who: Alex Gardner, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology


Meeting number (access code): 199 647 3148

Meeting password: RAGMAC_WP2

Calendar Invite: 



ICESat-2 is NASA’s latest generation satellite laser altimeter that provides the most precise measurements of glacier elevation change ever measured by a spaceborne instrument. ICESat-2 is the successor to ICESat (2003-2009) but differs greatly from its predecessor. We review the ICESat-2 mission, how it differs from ICESat, where to find the data, and how the data can be used to measure glacier change. We also discuss best practices and known issues. Early global glacier mass changes derived from ICESat and ICESat-2 data are presented and compared to results from spaceborne gravimetry and surface mass balance modeling.


WP2 Presentation 2 – GRACE-FO

When: Tuesday, November 3 @ 8am PT, 11am ET, 5pm CET

What: Glacier mass change from GRACE and GRACE-FO

Who: Bert Wouters, Utrecht University & Delft University of Technology

Where: https://jpl.webex.com/jpl/j.php?MTID=m13dfade3953927136e42f8df1ce16bbc

Meeting number (access code): 199 419 4996

Meeting password: RAGMAC_WP2

Calendar Invite: 



The GRACE/GRACE-FO satellites provide a unique tool to measure glacier mass changes on a global scale. We discuss the different datasets and methods available to estimate mass variations, their limitations and sources of uncertainty, and compare GRACE results to other independent estimates of glacier mass loss.

WP2 Presentation 3 – CryoSat-2

When: Tuesday, November 17 @ 8am PT, 11am ET, 5pm CET

What: CryoSat-2 for estimating glacier change

Who:   Ashley Morris, Norwegian Polar Institute &
            Livia Jakob, Earthwave


Meeting number (access code): 199 423 1112

Meeting password: RAGMAC_WP2

 Calendar Invite: 

Speaker 1: Ashley Morris

Title: Svalbard glacier mass balance from CryoSat-2 radar altimetry


Swath processing of CryoSat-2 radar altimetry allows the mapping of Arctic glacier elevation changes at a high spatial resolution. We discuss the mass balance of the glaciers and ice caps of Svalbard, emphasizing the consistency between altimetric and gravimetric measurements, and the changes which have occurred between the ICESat (2003-2008) and CryoSat-2 (2010-) periods. Additionally, we discuss the measurement principle, sources of error, and validation using field and airborne datasets.

Speaker 2: Livia Jakob

Title: Ice loss in High Mountain Asia and the Gulf of Alaska observed by CryoSat-2 swath altimetry


Glaciers and ice caps are currently the largest non-steric contributor to sea level rise, contributing ~30% to sea level budget. Global monitoring of these regions remains a challenging task since global estimates rely on a variety of observations and models to achieve the required spatial and temporal coverage, and significant differences remain between current estimates. Here we review existing studies of mass loss from CryoSat over Patagonia and the arctic region, and report on the first application of a novel approach to retrieve spatially-resolved elevation and mass change from Radar Altimetry over entire mountain glaciers areas. We apply interferometric swath altimetry to CryoSat-2 data acquired between 2010 and 2019 over High Mountain Asia and in the Gulf of Alaska. In addition, we extract monthly time series of elevation change, exploiting CryoSat’s high temporal repeat, to reveal seasonal and multiannual variation in rates of glaciers’ thinning at unprecedented spatial detail. 

We find that during this period, HMA and GoA have lost an average of −27.9 ± 2.4 Gt yr−1 (−0.29 ± 0.03 m w.e. yr−1) and −76.3 ± 5.6 Gt yr−1 (−0.89 ± 0.07 m w.e. yr−1) respectively, corresponding to a contribution to sea level rise of 0.048 ± 0.004 mm yr−1 and 0.217 ± 0.015 mm yr−1. Glacier thinning is ubiquitous except for the Karakoram-Kunlun region experiencing stable or slightly positive mass balance. In the GoA region the intensity of thinning varies spatially and temporally and correlates with the strength of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. In HMA we observe sustained multiannual trends until 2015-6, and decreased loss or even mass gain from 2016-17 onwards.

Alex Gardner, on behalf of RAGMAC WP2

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