GMBAL is a dataset containing all available time series of annual and multi-annual
mass balance measurements for the small glaciers of the world (
Cogley and Adams 1998;
Kaser et al. 2006;
("Small" glaciers are all glaciers other than the two ice sheets.)
The measurement compilation is updated periodically and in R1501 runs up to the
balance year 2013/14 for annual direct or glaciological measurements. Geodetic
measurements, which are nearly all multi-annual, typically take longer to appear in
the literature and as yet there are relatively few that extend into the 2010-2015
The current release of GMBAL, available at left, is R1501. See below for earlier
The map shows the distribution of mass-balance measurements (red and maroon
pixels), which is very uneven. There are measurements in places with limited
glacierization such as Mexico and New Guinea, but note the dense coverage of
moderately glacierized but populous regions (Scandinavia, the Alps) in contrast with
the sparse coverage of some of the heavily glacierized regions (Tibet, Alaska,
R1301 added a considerable number of measurements, and was used by, for example,
Marzeion et al. 2014, who showed that
the global fraction of glacier mass loss that is attributable to human activity is
now clearly separable from, and larger than, natural mass loss; and by
Marzeion et al. 2015 in a study that
established that two independent reconstructions of glacier mass change since
1900 are mutually consistent.
R1203 was the first release to include significant amounts of information from regional
geodetic measurements based on stereo photogrammetry, altimetry and interferometry
(where "regional" means more extensive than the 1°×1° grid cells of
GMBANAL's algorithm for spatial interpolation).
R1202 was used by Gardner et al. 2013, in which in-situ
and remotely-sensed measurements and gravimetric measurements were reconciled to
estimate global glacier mass change for 2003 to 2009. It was also the basis for much
of the coverage of glacier mass balance in the Observations: Cryosphere chapter (see
also the chapter on Sea Level Change) of the
Fifth Assessment Report
of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
GMBAL now includes measurements from many more glaciers than those originally
studied by Cogley and Adams (1998). It consists of seven files:
The data files are plain-text with fixed-width fields separated by commas. Please
contact us if you have questions about GMBAL, and especially if
you have corrections or additional mass-balance information, which are
- GMBAL.TTN201501.PDF: Documentation of the format of the data and metadata
- GMBAL.GLACIERS.CSV: Basic physiographic information about those glaciers and
glacierized regions for which mass balance has been measured by the direct
(glaciological) or geodetic methods;
- DI.BALANCE.CSV: Time series of annual mass balance measured by direct methods;
- GE.BALANCE.L0.CSV: Detailed records of mass-balance measurements by
- GE.BALANCE.L1.CSV: Summary records of mass balance corresponding to those in
- GMBAL.SOURCES.PDF, GMBAL.SOURCES.TEX: A PDF file and its parent TEX file
containing references to data sources; the references are linked to the glacier
records by citation numbers.
A similar dataset has been published by Dyurgerov and Meier (1997a,b) and
updated by Dyurgerov (2002), Dyurgerov and Meier (2005) and Dyurgerov (2010). Although
it does not include geodetic measurements, the Dyurgerov-Meier dataset is broader in
scope, including for example data on winter and summer balances where available.
Still broader in scope is FoG, the
Fluctuations of Glaciers
database of the World Glacier Monitoring Service (Zemp et al. 2015). There is extensive
overlap between the contents of all these databases. The strengths of GMBAL are that
it includes rather more direct measurements of annual mass balance, and many more
geodetic measurements of mass balance (mostly multi-annual), than the others.
Cogley, J.G., 2009, Geodetic and direct mass-balance
measurements: comparison and joint analysis, Annals of Glaciology,
Cogley, J.G., 2005, Mass and energy balances of glaciers
and ice sheets, in Anderson, M.G., ed., Encyclopaedia of Hydrological
Sciences, 2555-2573 (volume 4). Wiley, New York.
Cogley, J.G., and W.P. Adams, 1998, Mass balance of
glaciers other than the ice sheets, Journal of Glaciology, 44,
Dyurgerov, M.B., 2010, Reanalysis of glacier changes: from the
IGY to the IPY, 1960-2008, Materialy Glyatsiologicheskikh Issledovanij,
Dyurgerov, M.B., 2002, Glacier Mass Balance and Regime:
Data of Measurements and Analysis, Occasional Paper 55, Institute of
Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado. 268p.,
Dyurgerov, M.B., and M.F. Meier, 2005, Glaciers and the
Changing Earth System: a 2004 Snapshot, Occasional Paper 58, Institute of
Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado. 117p.
Dyurgerov, M.B., and M.F. Meier, 1997a, Year-to-year
fluctuations of global mass balance of small glaciers and their contribution
to sea-level changes, Arctic and Alpine Research, 29,
Dyurgerov, M.B., and M.F. Meier, 1997b, Mass balance of
mountain and subpolar glaciers: a new global assessment for the period of
instrumental records (1961-1990), Arctic and Alpine Research,
Gardner, A.S., G. Moholdt, J.G. Cogley, B. Wouters, A.A. Arendt,
J. Wahr, E. Berthier, R. Hock, W.T. Pfeffer, G. Kaser, S.R.M. Ligtenberg, T. Bolch,
M.J. Sharp, J.O. Hagen, M.R. van den Broeke and F. Paul, 2013, A reconciled estimate
of glacier contributions to sea level rise: 2003 to 2009, Science, 340,
Kaser, G., J.G. Cogley, M.B. Dyurgerov, M.F. Meier and
A. Ohmura, 2006, Mass balance of glaciers and ice caps: consensus estimates
for 1961-2004, Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L19501, doi:
Marzeion, B., P.W. Leclercq, J.G. Cogley and A.H. Jarosch,
2015, Global glacier mass loss reconstructions during the 20th century are consistent,
The Cryosphere, 9, 2399-2404.
Marzeion, B., J.G. Cogley, K. Richter and D. Parkes, 2014,
Attribution of global glacier mass loss to anthropogenic and natural causes,
Science, 345(6199), 919-921. doi: 10.1126/science.1254702. See also
commentary by Marshall, S., 2014, Glacier retreat crosses a line, Science,
Zemp, M., H. Frey, I. Gärtner-Roer, S.U. Nussbaumer, M.
Hoelzle, F. Paul,
W. Haeberli, F. Denzinger, A.P. Ahlstrøm, B. Anderson, S. Bajracharya,
C. Baroni, L.N. Braun, B.E. Cáceres, G. Casassa, G. Cobos, L.R. Dávila,
H. Delgado Granados, M.N. Demuth, L. Espizua, A. Fischer, K. Fujita,
B. Gadek, A. Ghazanfar, J.O. Hagen, P. Holmlund, N. Karimi, Z.Q. Li,
M. Pelto, P. Pitte, V.V. Popovnin, C.A. Portocarrero, R. Prinz, C.V.
Sangewar, I. Severskiy, O. Sigurðsson, A. Soruco, R. Usubaliev and C.
Vincent, 2015, Historically unprecedented global glacier decline in the
early 21st century, Journal of Glaciology, 61(228), 745-762.