Constraining glacier elevation and mass changes in South America

Matthias H. Braun, Philipp Malz, Christian Sommer, David Farías-Barahona, Tobias Sauter, Gino Casassa, Álvaro Soruco Sologuren, Pedro Skvarca, Thorsten C. Seehaus

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Excluding the large ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, glaciers in South America are large contributors to sea-level rise1. Their rates of mass loss, however, are poorly known. Here, using repeat bi-static synthetic aperture radar interferometry over the years 2000 to 2011/2015, we compute continent-wide, glacier-specific elevation and mass changes for 85% of the glacierized area of South America. Mass loss rate is calculated to be 19.43 ± 0.60 Gt a−1 from elevation changes above ground, sea or lake level, with an additional 3.06 ± 1.24 Gt a−1 from subaqueous ice mass loss not contributing to sea-level rise. The largest contributions come from the Patagonian icefields, where 83% mass loss occurs, largely from dynamic adjustments of large glaciers. These changes contribute 0.054 ± 0.002 mm a−1 to sea-level rise. In comparison with previous studies2, tropical and out-tropical glaciers — as well as those in Tierra del Fuego — show considerably less ice loss. These results provide basic information to calibrate and validate glacier-climate models and also for decision-makers in water resource management3.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-136
Number of pages7
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was financially supported with the grant BR2105/14-1 within the DFG Priority Program 'Regional Sea Level Change and Society’ and by grant SA2339/3-1, the BMBF-CONICYT project GABY-VASA (01DN15020, BMBF20140052), the DLR/BMWi grant GEKKO (50EE1544) as well as the HGF Alliance Remote Sensing & Earth System Dynamics and FONDECYT 1161130. D.F.B. was funded under a BECAS-Chile scholarship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.


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