Related Research Areas
Water & Energy Cycles

A wide range of estimates have been made of the current Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet contributions to sea level using a number of different methods. Each of the various methods used carries with it certain strengths and weaknesses that have led to some significant discrepancies among them. It is essential that these differences be reconciled, and that the strengths of the different approaches be fully utilized, as they each provide important insights into different aspects of the ice sheet mass balance question. When properly exploited these different assessments can provide a more robust estimate of ice sheet sea level contributions than has ever been provided before, along with important new information on their likely (or unlikely) future behavior. The overarching objective of our project is to understand and quantify key differences among different ice sheet mass balance estimates, and use that information to improve ice sheet mass balance assessments now and in the future. Our primary focus will be on improving the analyses and interpretation of observations from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and the Ice Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) missions, which unlike most other approaches, observe the total integrated effects of the full set of mass balance components. We will develop high resolution mascon solutions form the GRACE data for Greenland and Antarctica, building on what we have already done for Alaskan glaciers. We will then combine these results with our comprehensive set of results from ICESat, from airborne laser altimetry (including those acquired through IceBridge), and from surface mass balance (SMB) models to provide an integrated analysis of ice sheet mass balance and the factors that control it. Through this analysis, and by comparing our results to published mass balance assessments derived by other means, we will provide: (a) an integrated assessment of ice sheet contributions to sea level that is better understood and better constrained than any that have preceded it, (b) a quantitative assessment of the strengths and limitations of the various mass balance approaches (c) a detailed assessment of the spatial variability of density changes associated with observed elevation changes, and (d) a basis and strategy for improving future ice sheet mass balance results derived from ICESat-2 and DESDynI, which will not have the benefit of coincidence with GRACE or GRACE-2. Our analyses of ice sheet changes will complement efforts by other members of the broader IDS sea level team, who presumably will examine issues related to ocean thermal expansion, terrestrial storage, the terrestrial reference frame and other geodetic aspects of sea level rise. Collectively, we will advance our understanding of the processes that control current sea level rise and their likely behavior in the future.

Project PI: Waleed Abdalati/University of Colorado

University of Colorado at Boulder 216 UCBBoulder, CO 80309-0216


Fax: (303) 492-1149



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Started: Sep 29, 2010

Last Activity: Jan 04, 2011


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