The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and U.S. Geological Survey research team analyzed surveys of 116 glaciers in the Alaska region across 19 years to estimate ice loss from melting and iceberg calving. The team collected airborne lidar altimetry data as part of NASA’s Operation IceBridge and integrated the new data with information from the 1990s collected by UAF scientist and pilot Keith Echelmeyer.
They combined the lidar observations with a new mountain glacier inventory that characterizes the size and shape of every glacier in the Alaska region, which includes the glaciers of Alaska, southwest Yukon Territory and coastal northern British Columbia. “This large dataset of direct observations enabled a much more detailed assessment and attribution of recent glacier change than previously possible,” Larsen said.
Mountain glaciers hold less than 1 percent of the Earth’s glacial ice volume. The rest is held in ice sheets on Antarctica and Greenland. However, the rapid shrinking of mountain glaciers causes nearly one-third of current sea level rise, previous research has shown.