A mascon approach to assess ice sheet and glacier mass balances and their uncertainties from GRACE data

Ernst J.O. Schrama*, Bert Wouters, R. Rietbroek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

102 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this paper is to assess the mass changes of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS), Ice Sheets over Antarctica, and Land glaciers and Ice Caps with a global mascon method that yields monthly mass variations at 10,242 mascons. Input for this method are level 2 data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) system collected between February 2003 and June 2013 to which a number of corrections are made. With glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) corrections from an ensemble of models based on different ice histories and rheologic Earth model parameters, we find for Greenland a mass loss of -278 ± 19 Gt/yr. Whereas the mass balances for the GrIS appear to be less sensitive to GIA modeling uncertainties, this is not the case with the mass balance of Antarctica. Ice history models for Antarctica were recently improved, and updated historic ice height data sets and GPS time series have been used to generate new GIA models. We investigated the effect of two new GIA models for Antarctica and found -92 ± 26 Gt/yr which is half of what is obtained with ICE-5G-based GIA models, where the largest GIA model differences occur on East Antarctica. The mass balance of land glaciers and ice caps currently stands at -162 ± 10 Gt/yr. With the help of new GIA models for Antarctica, we assess the mass contribution to the mean sea level at 1.47 ± 0.09 mm/yr or 532 ± 34Gt/yr which is roughly half of the global sea level rise signal obtained from tide gauges and satellite altimetry. Key Points Consistent method for estimating mass balances from GRACE Mascon technique Evaluate systematic errors GIA correction

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6048-6066
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • mass balance
  • sea level
  • ITC-CV


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