For the first time in history satellite data and respective archive holdings are now sufficient in terms of their spatial and temporal resolution, and their accuracy, to measure volume changes, velocities and changes in these velocities over time for glaciers and ice caps other than ice sheets on a global scale.
The ICEMASS project will derive and analyse glacier thickness changes using satellite laser and radar altimetry, and satellite-derived and other digital elevation models, and convert these to a global glacier mass budget. Such data set will enable major steps forward in glacier and Earth science, in particular: constrain current sea-level contribution from glaciers; complete climate change patterns as reflected in glacier mass changes; quantify the contribution of glacier imbalance to river run-off; allow to separate glacier mass loss from other components of gravity changes as detected through satellite gravimetry; and allow improved modelling of the isostatic uplift component due to current changes in glacier load.
These results will be connected to global-scale glacier dynamics, for which a global set of repeat optical and radar satellite images will be processed to measure displacements due to glacier flow and their annual to decadal-scale changes. The analysis of these data will enable several major steps forward in glacier and Earth science, in particular: progress the understanding of glacier response to climate and its changes; provide new insights in processes underlying spatio-temporal variability and instability of glacier flow on decadal scales; improve understanding of dynamic thickness change effects; allow estimating global calving fluxes; progress understanding of transport in glaciers and their role in landscape development; and help to better assess potentially hazardous glacier lakes.
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