One of the grand challenges in glacier research is to assess the total ice volume and its global distribution. Over the past few decades the compilation of a world glacier inventory has been well-advanced both in institutional set-up and in spatial coverage. The inventory is restricted to glacier surface observations. However, although thickness has been observed on many glaciers and ice caps around the globe, it has not yet been published in the shape of a readily available database. Here, we present a standardized database of glacier thickness observations compiled by an extensive literature review and from airborne data extracted from NASA's Operation IceBridge. This database contains ice thickness observations from roughly 1100 glaciers and ice caps including 550 glacier-wide estimates and 750,000 point observations. A comparison of these observational ice thicknesses with results from area- and slope-dependent approaches reveals large deviations both from the observations and between different estimation approaches. For glaciers and ice caps all estimation approaches show a tendency to overestimation. For glaciers the median relative absolute deviation lies around 30% when analyzing the different estimation approaches. This initial database of glacier and ice caps thickness will hopefully be further enlarged and intensively used for a better understanding of the global glacier ice volume and its distribution.
Global and Planetary Change, 2014, Vol 122, p. 330-344
Ice thickness; Glaciers; Ice caps; Database; Global Terrestrial Network for Glaciers