The unquantified mass loss of Northern Hemisphere marine-terminating glaciers from 2000–2020

In the Northern Hemisphere, ~1500 glaciers, accounting for 28% of glacierized area outside the Greenland Ice Sheet, terminate in the ocean. Glacier mass loss at their ice-ocean interface, known as frontal ablation, has not yet been comprehensively quantified. Here, we estimate decadal frontal ablation from measurements of ice discharge and terminus position change from 2000 to 2020. We bias-correct and cross-validate estimates and uncertainties using independent sources. Frontal ablation of marine-terminating glaciers contributed an average of 44.47 ± 6.23 Gt a−1 of ice to the ocean from 2000 to 2010, and 51.98 ± 4.62 Gt a−1 from 2010 to 2020. Ice discharge from 2000 to 2020 was equivalent to 2.10 ± 0.22 mm of sea-level rise and comprised approximately 79% of frontal ablation, with the remainder from terminus retreat. Near-coastal areas most impacted include Austfonna, Svalbard, and central Severnaya Zemlya, the Russian Arctic, and a few Alaskan fjords.


Kochtitzky W, Copland L, Van Wychen W, Hugonnet R, Hock R, Dowdeswell JA, Benham T, Strozzi T, Glazovsky A, Lavrentiev I, Rounce DR, Millan R, Cook AJ, Dalton A, Jiskoot H, Cooley J, Jania J, Navarro F

Nature Communications 13
10, 11, 2022
Pages: 5835
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-33231-x