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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 6, issue 4
The Cryosphere, 6, 763–770, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-6-763-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
The Cryosphere, 6, 763–770, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-6-763-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 12 Jul 2012

Research article | 12 Jul 2012

Significant contribution to total mass from very small glaciers

D. B. Bahr2,1 and V. Radić3 D. B. Bahr and V. Radić
  • 1Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, UCB 450, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 2Department of Physics and Computational Science, Regis University, Denver, CO, USA
  • 3Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Abstract. A single large glacier can contain tens of millions of times the mass of a small glacier. Nevertheless, very small glaciers (with area ≤1 km2) are so numerous that their contribution to the world's total ice volume is significant and may be a notable source of error if excluded. With current glacier inventories, total global volume errors on the order of 10% are possible. However, to reduce errors to below 1% requires the inclusion of glaciers that are smaller than those recorded in most inventories. At the global scale, 1% accuracy requires a list of all glaciers and ice caps (GIC, exclusive of the ice sheets) larger than 1 km2, and for regional estimates requires a complete list of all glaciers down to the smallest possible size. For this reason, sea-level rise estimates and other total mass and total volume analyses should not omit the world's smallest glaciers. In particular, upscaling GIC inventories has been common practice in sea level estimates, but downscaling may also be necessary to include the smallest glaciers.

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