News & Events

April 8, 2019

Glaciers lose nine trillion tonnes of ice in half a century

Ice loss since 1961 has raised sea level by 27 mm

When we think of climate change, one of the first things to come to mind is melting polar ice. However, ice loss isn’t just restricted to the polar regions. According to research published today, glaciers around the world have lost well over 9000 gigatonnes (nine trillion tonnes) of ice since 1961, raising sea level by 27 mm.

An international team led by the University of Zurich in Switzerland used classical glaciological field observations combined with a wealth of information from various satellite missions to painstakingly calculate how much ice has been lost or gained by 19 different glacierised regions around the world.

Their research, published in Nature, reveals that glaciers lost 9625 gigatonnes of ice between 1961 and 2016.

ESA’s Climate Change Initiative – a research programme focused on generating global datasets for the key components of Earth’s climate, known as essential climate variables – was also key to the research.