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Completing the World Glacier Inventory

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An inventory of the surface area and volume of the world's glaciers, outside Greenland and Antarctica, was part of the International Hydrological Decade (1965–74). It was considered essential to an understanding of the role played by glaciers in the hydrological cycle and was to be repeated every 50 years to detect change. To date, 46% of the estimated total glacier area has been inventoried and made available through the World Glacier Monitoring Service and the US National Snow and Ice Data Center. As the original inventory method was too time-consuming and inapplicable for some areas, a simplified method was developed in the early 1980s using satellite images. The Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) project now covers 34% of the estimated glacierized area outside Greenland and Antarctica. Both inventory efforts have made good progress and contributed substantially to our knowledge of glaciology and its related sciences, but global coverage is still incomplete. If both inventories are combined, 46% of the world's glacierized area is still missing; 26% is covered by both methods, which allows the quality of the satellite-based and semi-automatic inventories to be assessed by comparison. About 95 000 glaciers remain to be inventoried, of which about half are in the Canadian Cordillera, South America and the Canadian Arctic Islands. As the cryosphere is changing rapidly, it is of the utmost importance to complete the global glacier inventory as soon as possible, and identify an appropriate repeat cycle.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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