The objective of the Network is to facilitate research on the dynamics and mass budget of Arctic glaciers. The Network wants to make a significant contribution to assessments on the impact of climate change in the Arctic region. The focus is on the effect of glaciers on sea-level change and on the fresh water input into fjords and embayments. In some parts of the Arctic (e.g. Iceland), rapidly changing glaciers may affect shipping and infrastructure. The Network aims to study such glaciers and to increase our understanding of the mechanisms behind rapid change. The Network also wants to stimulate collaboration between glaciologists and other disciplines, such as atmospheric scientists and oceanographers. The terms of reference for the IASC Network on Arctic Glaciology can be found HERE.

Background and history

Land ice masses in the northern circumpolar region cover more than 2,075,000 square kilometres and therefore form an important element in the Arctic environment. Glaciers in the Arctic have generally experienced a negative mass balance during the last century, and there is a concern that future greenhouse warming may lead to an acceleration of ice wastage. It is against this background that the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) established a Working Group on Arctic Glaciology in 1992, which continued as the Network on Arctic Glaciology in 2010.

The first project coordinated by the Working Group was entitled MAGICS: Mass balance of Arctic Glaciers and Ice sheets in relation to the Climate and Sea level changes. As part of MAGICS two significant contributions were made: (1) A compilation of existing in situ mass-balance observations on Arctic glaciers (see Publications and mass balance), and (2) An estimate of the contribution of Arctic glaciers to sea-level change in the next 100 years (a contribution to ACIA, Arctic Climate Impact Assessment).

A second project coordinated by the Network was entitled GLACIODYN: the project on the dynamic response of Arctic glaciers to global warming. GLACIODYN was one of the lead projects in the IPY 2007 (International Polar Year 2007-09).

In recent years (2018-2020), the annual NAG meeting and workshop included cross-cutting activities, supported by at least two IASC Working Groups, to stimulate collaboration between glaciologists, marine ecologists and oceanographers. In 2021 and 2022 the annual meeting was held online in short format and included three keynote presentations on glacier - atmosphere interactions, and an open forum.

1994 Wisla group photo









 The first meeting of the IASC Working Group on Arctic Glaciology, Wisla, Poland, September 1994

How the Network works

The Network has a relatively simple organisational structure. Each year, during a 2/3-day workshop on the dynamics and mass budget of Arctic glaciers, an open forum meeting is held where formal matters as well as the long-term strategy are discussed. This meeting is open to the national contact persons as well as other scientists. During the workshop brief presentations and posters provide an overview of recent results and ongoing activities. Extended abstracts are normally collected and printed.

The annual workshop also serves as a place where more practical plans are made to share costs and logistics for field work. In the past very fruitful international collaboration has been initiated at the annual workshops! Occasionally the Working group also organises events on a larger scale, like the Symposium on Arctic Glaciology that was held in Geilo, Norway (August 2004). This symposium was co-sponsored by the International Glaciological Society.

The funding for the Network activities comes from various sources, most frequently IASC itself and the IASC Cryospheric Working Group. The budget is mainly used to provide travel support to early-career scientists, as well as to cover general workshop costs. Currently, the Network has contacts in Austria, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, U.S.A. (see National contacts ).

Terms of reference

The aim of the working group is to initiate scientific programs and international cooperation between glaciologists and climate modellers to develop the understanding of arctic land ice and its role in global climatic and environmental changes.
The working group should strive to achieve this aim by:

  • Promotion of effective information exchange in Arctic glaciology including contacts with other scientific communities
  • Initiation of symposia and workshops
  • Initiation of a scientific planning process leading to an Arctic glaciological research programme
  • Revision and review of existing and planned research programmes
  • Advising IASC on glaciological matters

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