GLIMS: Global Land Ice Measurements from Space


The NSIDC DAAC GLIMS data collection includes data from the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) initiative. GLIMS is an international project to inventory the world’s glaciers and to create a comprehensive, global database of land ice through repeat surveys.

This data collection’s primary data product is the GLIMS Glacier Database. The glacier database includes measurements of glacier geometry, glacier area, snowlines, supraglacial lakes and rock debris, and other glacial attributes, as well as browse images. The collection includes data from approximately 70 percent of the world's 200,000 glaciers, and new glaciers are continually added. Data are primarily derived from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument aboard the Terra satellite and the Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+), but other sources are also used. These additional sources include other satellite observations, such as observations from Satellite Pour l’Observation de la Terre (SPOT) and EMI+, as well as maps, aerial photographs, and historical observations dating back to 1850.

Image of GLIMS Glacier Viewer
A sample image of Alaskan glaciers from the GLIMS glacier viewer application. — Credit: NSIDC

The GLIMS initiative was established in 1999 by the joint U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. It is a collection of worldwide cooperative networks (Regional Centers) that map and analyze glacier fluctuations in their geographic region of expertise. Since its inception, over 60 institutions in 28 nations worldwide have contributed to the GLIMS Glacier Database. 

Because glaciers advance and retreat in response to environmental cues, including changes in temperature and precipitation, they are strong indicators of climate change. The GLIMS Glacier Database enables scientists to map how glaciers have changed over time, allowing them to better understand the impacts these changes will have on water resources, downstream hazards, ecosystem changes, and global sea level rise.

The Randolph Glacier Inventory, which is a global catalogue of glacier outlines, supplements GLIMS Glacier Database. It includes detailed outlines of the extent of each glacier, with images in the inventory spanning from 1999 to 2010. The Randolph Glacier inventory is not currently accessible through NSIDC but is available from the GLIMS project website.

NSIDC also provides information on more than 130,000 glaciers through the World Glacier Inventory.


Glacier area, geometry, surface velocity, and snow line elevation

Spatial coverage


Related collection(s)

High Mountain Asia (HMA)

Explore images from GLIMS



If you have data to contribute to GLIMS (glacier outlines, center lines, snow lines, and the like), please visit the project website for more information