Accelerating glacier mass loss on Franz Josef Land, Russian Arctic

Whyjay Zheng, Matthew E. Pritchard, Michael J. Willis, Paul Tepes, Noel Gourmelen, Toby J. Benham, Julian A. Dowdeswell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The glaciers of the Franz Josef Land (FJL) archipelago in the Russian Arctic are subjected to rapidly-warming temperatures but are small contributors to sea level. We analyze ice surface elevation data derived from satellite stereo imagery (WorldView and SPOT), radar altimetry (CryoSat-2), and a digitized 1953 cartographic map to calculate elevation change rates [Formula presented]. Mass loss from FJL doubled between 2011 and 2015 compared to 1953–2011/2015, increasing from a rate of −2.18 ± 0.72 Gt yr−1 to −4.43 ± 0.78 Gt yr−1. This 2011−2015 rate indicates an acceleration in ice loss from that observed in 2003–2009 by multiple studies using ICESat and GRACE. Glacier thinning rates are spatially highly variable. We observe glacier thinning rates of up to 10 m per year, and in general we see a trend of increased thinning from the NE towards the SW. Glacier retreat is widespread and has led to the creation of at least one new island. Historically, ice wastage from FJL is thought to have been relatively small, but accelerating ice loss may be the new normal for this archipelago in a warming Arctic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-375
Number of pages19
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2018


  • ArcticDEM
  • Climate change
  • CryoSat-2
  • Cryosphere
  • DEM
  • Elevation change
  • Franz Josef Land
  • Glacier
  • Ice cap
  • Ice loss
  • Russian Arctic
  • SPOT-5
  • WorldView
  • dh/dt


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