Constraining glacier elevation and mass changes in South America

Journal article

Publication Details

Author(s): Braun M, Malz P, Sommer C, Farías Barahona D, Sauter T, Casassa G, Soruco A, Skvarca P, Seehaus T
Journal: Nature Climate Change
Publication year: 2019
Volume: 9
Journal issue: 2
Pages range: 130-+
ISSN: 1758-678X
eISSN: 1758-6798


Excluding the large ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, glaciers in South America are large contributors to sea-level rise(1). 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 studies(2), 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 management(3).

FAU Authors / FAU Editors

Braun, Matthias Prof. Dr.
Seehaus, Thorsten Dr.
Professur für Geographie (Fernerkundung und GIS)
Farías Barahona, David
Professur für Geographie (Fernerkundung und GIS)
Malz, Philipp
Professur für Geographie (Fernerkundung und GIS)
Sauter, Tobias Dr.
Professur für Geographie
Professur für Geographie (Fernerkundung und GIS)
Sommer, Christian
Professur für Geographie (Fernerkundung und GIS)

External institutions
Glaciarium, Centro de Interpretación de Glaciares
UMSA Universidad Mayor de San Andrés
University of Magallanes / Universidad de Magallanes (UMAG)

How to cite

Braun, M., Malz, P., Sommer, C., Farías Barahona, D., Sauter, T., Casassa, G.,... Seehaus, T. (2019). Constraining glacier elevation and mass changes in South America. Nature Climate Change, 9(2), 130-+.

Braun, Matthias, et al. "Constraining glacier elevation and mass changes in South America." Nature Climate Change 9.2 (2019): 130-+.


Last updated on 2019-24-02 at 02:23