Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The first globally complete glacier inventory has been created

06.05.2014

Thanks to the efforts of an international group of scientists – one of them is Tobias Bolch from Technische Universität Dresden, Germany - 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 scientists found nearly 200,000 of them, but they say that this is the least important result of the mapping exercise as the number constantly changes due to disappearing small and fragmenting larger glaciers. More importantly, each glacier in the new inventory is represented by a computer-readable outline, making precise modelling of glacier–climate interactions much easier.

Zhadang Glacier

This image shows the Zhadang glacier south of lake Nam Tso on the nortern ridge of the Nyainqentanglha mountain range (Tibet, China).

Credit: Photo: Tino Pieczonka (TU Dresden)

"This boost to the infrastructure means that people can now do research that they simply couldn't do properly before", said Graham Cogley of Trent University, one of the coordinators of the new Randolph Glacier Inventory (RGI), which is named after one of the group's meeting places in New Hampshire. The now published article is presenting the RGI and first statistical analysis of the global glacier distribution.

The main stimulus for completing the inventory was the recently-published Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Several studies that relied on earlier versions of the RGI were essential sources for that assessment. "I don't think anyone could have made meaningful progress on projecting glacier changes if the Randolph inventory had not been available", said the University of Colorado's Tad Pfeffer, lead author of the study just published in the Journal of Glaciology. Like several of his co-authors, Pfeffer was also involved in the IPCC assessment.

The total extent of the glaciers in the RGI is about the size of Germany plus Switzerland and Poland. According to several studies, the corresponding total volume is between 35 and 47 cm of sea-level equivalent, i.e. sea level would rise by this amount when all glaciers would melt completely. This is less than most earlier estimates, and less than 1% of the amount stored in the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets. However, barring an unlikely catastrophic ice-sheet collapse the smaller glaciers are judged to be at much more immediate risk under the stress of climatic change as their ice is in general already at the melting point whereas the ice of the ice sheets has to be warmed up to zero degrees first. Glaciers currently contribute about 1/3 to the observed sea level rise, about the same as both ice sheets together (the remaining third is resulting from thermal expansion of ocean water).

"The rapid shrinkage of glaciers during the past 20 years is also well-recognizable in the Alps and other parts of the world" says 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. "Here and in other parts of the world the diminishing glaciers also impact on regional to local scale hydrology, natural hazards, and livelihoods in otherwise dry mountain regions. Accurate knowledge of water reserves and their future evolution is thus key for local authorities for early implementation of mitigation measures" adds his colleague Tobias Bolch who is also researching at Technische Universität Dresden, Germany.

###

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. Finally, the support of the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences (IACS) and the International Arctic Science Council (IASC) enabled several meetings of the coordinating group. The contribution of T. Bolch to the RGI was funded by the ESA project Glaciers_cci, the EU FP7 project ice2sea, and the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Publication:

Pfeffer, W.T., Arendt, A. A., Bliss, A., Bolch, T., Cogley, J. G., Gardner, A. S., Hagen, J.-O., Hock, R., Kaser, G., Kienholz, C., Miles, E. S., Moholdt, G., Mölg, N., Paul, F., Radic, V., Rastner, P., Raup, B. H., Rich, J., Sharp, M. J. and the Randolph Consortium: The Randolph Glacier Inventory (2014): a globally complete inventory of glaciers. Journal of Glaciology 60(221), doi: 10.3189/2014JoG13J176. http://www.igsoc.org/journal/60/221/j13J176.pdf

Information for Journalists:

Tobias Bolch, Institute for Cartographie
Technische Universität Dresden
E-Mail: tobias.bolch@tu-dresden.de
Tel. (+41) 44 6355236 or 0351 463 34809 (secretary)

Tobias Bolch | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.tu-dresden.de

Further reports about: Antarctic ice sheets Assessment Climate change ESA Glacier Glaciology Greenland IPCC Inventory existing

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Researchers find higher than expected carbon emissions from inland waterways
25.05.2016 | Washington State University

nachricht Rutgers scientists help create world's largest coral gene database
24.05.2016 | Rutgers University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Computational high-throughput screening finds hard magnets containing less rare earth elements

Permanent magnets are very important for technologies of the future like electromobility and renewable energy, and rare earth elements (REE) are necessary for their manufacture. The Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg, Germany, has now succeeded in identifying promising approaches and materials for new permanent magnets through use of an in-house simulation process based on high-throughput screening (HTS). The team was able to improve magnetic properties this way and at the same time replaced REE with elements that are less expensive and readily available. The results were published in the online technical journal “Scientific Reports”.

The starting point for IWM researchers Wolfgang Körner, Georg Krugel, and Christian Elsässer was a neodymium-iron-nitrogen compound based on a type of...

Im Focus: Atomic precision: technologies for the next-but-one generation of microchips

In the Beyond EUV project, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are developing key technologies for the manufacture of a new generation of microchips using EUV radiation at a wavelength of 6.7 nm. The resulting structures are barely thicker than single atoms, and they make it possible to produce extremely integrated circuits for such items as wearables or mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.

In 1965 Gordon Moore formulated the law that came to be named after him, which states that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every one to two...

Im Focus: Researchers demonstrate size quantization of Dirac fermions in graphene

Characterization of high-quality material reveals important details relevant to next generation nanoelectronic devices

Quantum mechanics is the field of physics governing the behavior of things on atomic scales, where things work very differently from our everyday world.

Im Focus: Graphene: A quantum of current

When current comes in discrete packages: Viennese scientists unravel the quantum properties of the carbon material graphene

In 2010 the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for the discovery of the exceptional material graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon atoms...

Im Focus: Transparent - Flexible - Printable: Key technologies for tomorrow’s displays

The trend-forward world of display technology relies on innovative materials and novel approaches to steadily advance the visual experience, for example through higher pixel densities, better contrast, larger formats or user-friendler design. Fraunhofer ISC’s newly developed materials for optics and electronics now broaden the application potential of next generation displays. Learn about lower cost-effective wet-chemical printing procedures and the new materials at the Fraunhofer ISC booth # 1021 in North Hall D during the SID International Symposium on Information Display held from 22 to 27 May 2016 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

Economical processing

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Networking 4.0: International Laser Technology Congress AKL’16 Shows New Ways of Cooperations

24.05.2016 | Event News

Challenges of rural labor markets

20.05.2016 | Event News

International expert meeting “Health Business Connect” in France

19.05.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

LZH shows the potential of the laser for industrial manufacturing at the LASYS 2016

25.05.2016 | Trade Fair News

Great apes communicate cooperatively

25.05.2016 | Life Sciences

Thermo-Optical Measuring method (TOM) could save several million tons of CO2 in coal-fired plants

25.05.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>