Mass loss of glaciers and ice caps across Greenland since the Little Ice Age

Jonathan L. Carrivick, Clare Boston, Jenna Sutherland, Danni Pearce, Hugo Armstrong, Anders Bjørk, Kristian Kjeldsen, Jakob Abermann, Rachel Oien, Michael Grimes, William H. M. James, Mark W. Smith

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Glaciers and ice caps (GICs) are important contributors of meltwater runoff and to global sea level rise. However, knowledge of GIC mass changes is largely restricted to the last few decades. Here we show the extent of 5327 Greenland GICs during Little Ice Age termination (1900) and reveal that they have fragmented into 5467 glaciers in 2001, losing at least 587 km3 from their ablation areas, equating to 499 Gt at a rate of 4.34 Gt.yr-1. We estimate that the long-term mean mass balance in glacier ablation areas has been at least -0.18 to -0.22 m w.e. yr-1 and note the rate between 2000 and 2019 has been three times that. Glaciers with ice-marginal lakes formed since the LIA termination have had the fastest changing mass balance. Considerable spatial variability in glacier changes suggest compounding regional and local factors present challenges for understanding glacier evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023GL103950
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number10
Early online date18 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2023


  • Greenland
  • ice cap
  • glacier
  • Little Ice Age
  • volume
  • meltwater
  • UKRI
  • NERC
  • NE/L002574/1

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