Ice-Dynamical Glacier Evolution Modeling—A Review

H. Zekollari*, M. Huss, D. Farinotti, S. Lhermitte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Glaciers play a crucial role in the Earth System: they are important water suppliers to lower-lying areas during hot and dry periods, and they are major contributors to the observed present-day sea-level rise. Glaciers can also act as a source of natural hazards and have a major touristic value. Given their societal importance, there is large scientific interest in better understanding and accurately simulating the temporal evolution of glaciers, both in the past and in the future. Here, we give an overview of the state of the art of simulating the evolution of individual glaciers over decadal to centennial time scales with ice-dynamical models. We hereby highlight recent advances in the field and emphasize how these go hand-in-hand with an increasing availability of on-site and remotely sensed observations. We also focus on the gap between simplified studies that use parameterizations, typically used for regional and global projections, and detailed assessments for individual glaciers, and explain how recent advances now allow including ice dynamics when modeling glaciers at larger spatial scales. Finally, we provide concrete recommendations concerning the steps and factors to be considered when modeling the evolution of glaciers. We suggest paying particular attention to the model initialization, analyzing how related uncertainties in model input influence the modeled glacier evolution and strongly recommend evaluating the simulated glacier evolution against independent data.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021RG000754
Number of pages65
JournalReviews of Geophysics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • dynamics
  • evolution
  • glacier
  • ice
  • mass balance
  • modeling


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