Which glaciers are the largest in the world? Journal Article uri icon



  • AbstractGlacier monitoring has been internationally coordinated for more than 125 years. Despite this long history, there is no authoritative answer to the popular question: ‘Which glaciers are the largest in the world?’ Here, we present the first systematic assessment of this question and identify the largest glaciers in the world – distinct from the two ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica but including the glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula. We identify the largest glaciers in two domains: on each of the seven geographical continents and in the 19 first-order glacier regions defined by the Global Terrestrial Network for Glaciers. Ranking glaciers by area is non-trivial. It depends on how a glacier is defined and mapped and also requires differentiating between a glacier and a glacier complex, i.e. glaciers that meet at ice divides such as ice caps and icefields. It also depends on the availability of a homogenized global glacier inventory. Using separate rankings for glaciers and glacier complexes, we find that the largest glacier complexes have areas on the order of tens of thousands of square kilometers whereas the largest glaciers are several thousands of square kilometers. The world's largest glaciers and glacier complexes are located in the Antarctic, Arctic and Patagonia.

publication date

  • April 1, 2023

has restriction

  • gold

Date in CU Experts

  • June 6, 2023 10:32 AM

Full Author List

  • Windnagel A; Hock R; Maussion F; Paul F; Rastner P; Raup B; Zemp M

author count

  • 7

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-1430

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1727-5652

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 301

end page

  • 310


  • 69


  • 274