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The Randolph Glacier Inventory: A globally complete inventory of glaciers

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Bethan DaviesORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The Randolph Glacier Inventory (RGI) is a globally complete collection of digital outlines of glaciers, excluding the ice sheets, developed to meet the needs of the Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for estimates of past and future mass balance. The RGI was created with limited resources in a short period. Priority was given to completeness of coverage, but a limited, uniform set of attributes is attached to each of the ~198 000 glaciers in its latest version, 3.2. Satellite imagery from 1999-2010 provided most of the outlines. Their total extent is estimated as 726 800±34 000km2. The uncertainty, about ±5%, is derived from careful single-glacier and basin-scale uncertainty estimates and comparisons with inventories that were not sources for the RGI. The main contributors to uncertainty are probably misinterpretation of seasonal snow cover and debris cover. These errors appear not to be normally distributed, and quantifying them reliably is an unsolved problem. Combined with digital elevation models, the RGI glacier outlines yield hypsometries that can be combined with atmospheric data or model outputs for analysis of the impacts of climatic change on glaciers. The RGI has already proved its value in the generation of significantly improved aggregate estimates of glacier mass changes and total volume, and thus actual and potential contributions to sea-level rise.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pfeffer WT, Arendt AA, Bliss A, Bolch T, Cogley JG, Gardner AS, Hagen J-O, Hock R, Kaser G, Kienholz C, Miles ES, Moholdt G, Molg N, Paul F, Radic V, Rastner P, Raup BH, Rich J, Sharp MJ, Andreassen LM, Bajracharya S, Barrand NE, Beedle MJ, Berthier E, Bhambri R, Brown I, Burgess DO, Burgess EW, Cawkwell F, Chinn T, Copland L, Cullen NJ, Davies B, De Angelis H, Fountain AG, Frey H, Giffen BA, Glasser NF, Gurney SD, Hagg W, Hall DK, Haritashya UK, Hartmann G, Herreid S, Howat I, Jiskoot H, Khromova TE, Klein A, Kohler J, Konig M, Kriegel D, Kutuzov S, Lavrentiev I, Le Bris R, Li X, Manley WF, Mayer C, Menounos B, Mercer A, Mool P, Negrete A, Nosenko G, Nuth C, Osmonov A, Pettersson R, Racoviteanu A, Ranzi R, Sarikaya MA, Schneider C, Sigurdsson O, Sirguey P, Stokes CR, Wheate R, Wolken GJ, Wu LZ, Wyatt FR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Glaciology

Year: 2014

Volume: 60

Issue: 221

Pages: 537-552

Print publication date: 01/06/2014

Online publication date: 10/07/2017

Acceptance date: 26/01/2014

Date deposited: 22/08/2022

ISSN (print): 0022-1430

ISSN (electronic): 1727-5652

Publisher: International Glaciology Society


DOI: 10.3189/2014JoG13J176


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Funder referenceFunder name
DFG, grant BO 3199/2–1
Environment Canada
EAR 0943742
European Union 7th Framework Programme grant No. 226375
FWF; grants I900-N21 and P25362-N26
ice2sea contribution No. 100
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada