Recent research shows increasing decadal ice mass losses from the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets and more generally from glaciers worldwide in the light of continued global warming. Here, in an update of our previous ISMASS paper (Hanna et al., 2013), we review recent observational estimates of ice sheet and glacier mass balance, and their related uncertainties, first briefly considering relevant monitoring methods. Focusing on the response to climate change during 1992–2018, and especially the post-IPCC AR5 period, we discuss recent changes in the relative contributions of ice sheets and glaciers to sea-level change. We assess recent advances in understanding of the relative importance of surface mass balance and ice dynamics in overall ice-sheet mass change. We also consider recent improvements in ice-sheet modelling, highlighting data-model linkages and the use of updated observational datasets in ice-sheet models. Finally, by identifying key deficiencies in the observations and models that hamper current understanding and limit reliability of future ice-sheet projections, we make recommendations to the research community for reducing these knowledge gaps. Our synthesis aims to provide a critical and timely review of the current state of the science in advance of the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report that is due in 2021.