Evaluating GRACE Mass Change Time Series for the Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheet—Methods and Results

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Satellite gravimetry data acquired by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) allows to derive the temporal evolution in ice mass for both the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) and the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS). Various algorithms have been used in a wide range of studies to generate Gravimetric Mass Balance (GMB) products. Results from different studies may be affected by substantial differences in the processing, including the applied algorithm, the utilised background models and the time period under consideration. This study gives a detailed description of an assessment of the performance of GMB algorithms using actual GRACE monthly solutions for a prescribed period as well as synthetic data sets. The inter-comparison exercise was conducted in the scope of the European Space Agency’s Climate Change Initiative (CCI) project for the AIS and GIS, and was, for the first time, open to everyone. GMB products generated by different groups could be evaluated and directly compared against each other. For the period from 2003-02 to 2013-12, estimated linear trends in ice mass vary between −99 Gt/yr and −108 Gt/yr for the AIS and between −252 Gt/yr and −274 Gt/yr for the GIS, respectively. The spread between the solutions is larger if smaller drainage basins or gridded GMB products are considered. Finally, findings from the exercise formed the basis to select the algorithms used for the GMB product generation within the AIS and GIS CCI project.