Cryosphere

Cryosphere

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Encyclopedia
The cryosphere is the term which collectively describes the portions of the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

’s surface where water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

 is in solid
Solid
Solid is one of the three classical states of matter . It is characterized by structural rigidity and resistance to changes of shape or volume. Unlike a liquid, a solid object does not flow to take on the shape of its container, nor does it expand to fill the entire volume available to it like a...

 form, including sea ice
Sea ice
Sea ice is largely formed from seawater that freezes. Because the oceans consist of saltwater, this occurs below the freezing point of pure water, at about -1.8 °C ....

, lake ice, river ice
Ice
Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

, snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 cover, glaciers, ice cap
Ice cap
An ice cap is an ice mass that covers less than 50 000 km² of land area . Masses of ice covering more than 50 000 km² are termed an ice sheet....

s and ice sheet
Ice sheet
An ice sheet is a mass of glacier ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than 50,000 km² , thus also known as continental glacier...

s, and frozen ground (which includes permafrost
Permafrost
In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water for two or more years. Ice is not always present, as may be in the case of nonporous bedrock, but it frequently occurs and it may be in amounts exceeding the potential hydraulic saturation of...

). Thus there is a wide overlap with the hydrosphere
Hydrosphere
A hydrosphere in physical geography describes the combined mass of water found on, under, and over the surface of a planet....

. The cryosphere is an integral part of the global climate system with important linkages and feedback
Feedback
Feedback describes the situation when output from an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or occurrences of the same Feedback describes the situation when output from (or information about the result of) an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or...

s generated through its influence on surface energy and moisture fluxes, cloud
Cloud
A cloud is a visible mass of liquid droplets or frozen crystals made of water and/or various chemicals suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body. They are also known as aerosols. Clouds in Earth's atmosphere are studied in the cloud physics branch of meteorology...

s, precipitation
Precipitation (meteorology)
In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation (also known as one of the classes of hydrometeors, which are atmospheric water phenomena is any product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor that falls under gravity. The main forms of precipitation...

, hydrology
Hydrology
Hydrology is the study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets, including the hydrologic cycle, water resources and environmental watershed sustainability...

, atmospheric and oceanic circulation. Through these feedback
Feedback
Feedback describes the situation when output from an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or occurrences of the same Feedback describes the situation when output from (or information about the result of) an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or...

 processes, the cryosphere plays a significant role in global climate and in climate model
Climate model
Climate models use quantitative methods to simulate the interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, and ice. They are used for a variety of purposes from study of the dynamics of the climate system to projections of future climate...

 response to global change.

Structure


Frozen water is found on the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

’s surface primarily as snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 cover, freshwater
Freshwater
Fresh water is naturally occurring water on the Earth's surface in ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers, bogs, ponds, lakes, rivers and streams, and underground as groundwater in aquifers and underground streams. Fresh water is generally characterized by having low concentrations of dissolved salts and...

 ice
Ice
Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

 in lakes and rivers, sea ice
Sea ice
Sea ice is largely formed from seawater that freezes. Because the oceans consist of saltwater, this occurs below the freezing point of pure water, at about -1.8 °C ....

, glaciers, ice sheets, and frozen ground and permafrost
Permafrost
In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water for two or more years. Ice is not always present, as may be in the case of nonporous bedrock, but it frequently occurs and it may be in amounts exceeding the potential hydraulic saturation of...

 (permanently-frozen ground). The residence time of water in each of these cryospheric sub-systems varies widely. Snow cover and freshwater ice are essentially seasonal, and most sea ice, except for ice in the central Arctic
Arctic
The Arctic is a region located at the northern-most part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost...

, lasts only a few years if it is not seasonal. A given water particle in glaciers, ice sheets, or ground ice, however, may remain frozen for 10-100,000 years or longer, and deep ice in parts of East Antarctica
East Antarctica
East Antarctica, also called Greater Antarctica, constitutes the majority of the Antarctic continent, lying on the Indian Ocean side of the Transantarctic Mountains...

 may have an age approaching 1 million years.

Most of the world’s ice volume is in Antarctica, principally in the East Antarctic Ice Sheet
East Antarctic Ice Sheet
The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is one of two large ice sheets in Antarctica, and the largest on the entire planet. The EAIS lies between 45° West and 168° East longitudinally....

. In terms of areal extent, however, Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 winter snow and ice extent comprise the largest area, amounting to an average 23% of hemispheric surface area in January. The large areal extent and the important climatic roles of snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 and ice
Ice
Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

, related to their unique physical properties, indicate that the ability to observe and model snow and ice-cover extent, thickness, and physical properties (radiative and thermal properties) is of particular significance for climate research.

There are several fundamental physical properties of snow and ice that modulate energy exchanges between the surface and the atmosphere
Atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

. The most important properties are the surface reflectance (albedo
Albedo
Albedo , or reflection coefficient, is the diffuse reflectivity or reflecting power of a surface. It is defined as the ratio of reflected radiation from the surface to incident radiation upon it...

), the ability to transfer heat (thermal diffusivity), and the ability to change state (latent heat
Latent heat
Latent heat is the heat released or absorbed by a chemical substance or a thermodynamic system during a process that occurs without a change in temperature. A typical example is a change of state of matter, meaning a phase transition such as the melting of ice or the boiling of water. The term was...

). These physical properties, together with surface roughness, emissivity
Emissivity
The emissivity of a material is the relative ability of its surface to emit energy by radiation. It is the ratio of energy radiated by a particular material to energy radiated by a black body at the same temperature...

, and dielectric
Dielectric
A dielectric is an electrical insulator that can be polarized by an applied electric field. When a dielectric is placed in an electric field, electric charges do not flow through the material, as in a conductor, but only slightly shift from their average equilibrium positions causing dielectric...

 characteristics, have important implications for observing snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 and ice
Ice
Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

 from space. For example, surface roughness is often the dominant factor determining the strength of radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 backscatter
Backscatter
In physics, backscatter is the reflection of waves, particles, or signals back to the direction they came from. It is a diffuse reflection due to scattering, as opposed to specular reflection like a mirror...

 . Physical properties such as crystal
Crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

 structure, density, length, and liquid-water content are important factors affecting the transfers of heat and water and the scattering of microwave
Microwave
Microwaves, a subset of radio waves, have wavelengths ranging from as long as one meter to as short as one millimeter, or equivalently, with frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz. This broad definition includes both UHF and EHF , and various sources use different boundaries...

 energy
Energy
In physics, energy is an indirectly observed quantity. It is often understood as the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems...

.

The surface reflectance of incoming solar radiation is important for the surface energy balance (SEB). It is the ratio of reflected to incident solar radiation, commonly referred to as albedo
Albedo
Albedo , or reflection coefficient, is the diffuse reflectivity or reflecting power of a surface. It is defined as the ratio of reflected radiation from the surface to incident radiation upon it...

. Climatologists are primarily interested in albedo
Albedo
Albedo , or reflection coefficient, is the diffuse reflectivity or reflecting power of a surface. It is defined as the ratio of reflected radiation from the surface to incident radiation upon it...

 integrated over the shortwave
Shortwave
Shortwave radio refers to the upper MF and all of the HF portion of the radio spectrum, between 1,800–30,000 kHz. Shortwave radio received its name because the wavelengths in this band are shorter than 200 m which marked the original upper limit of the medium frequency band first used...

 portion of the electromagnetic spectrum
Electromagnetic spectrum
The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. The "electromagnetic spectrum" of an object is the characteristic distribution of electromagnetic radiation emitted or absorbed by that particular object....

 (~0.3 to 3.5 nm), which coincides with the main solar energy input. Typically, albedo
Albedo
Albedo , or reflection coefficient, is the diffuse reflectivity or reflecting power of a surface. It is defined as the ratio of reflected radiation from the surface to incident radiation upon it...

 values for non-melting snow-covered surfaces are high (~80-90%) except in the case of forests. The higher albedo
Albedo
Albedo , or reflection coefficient, is the diffuse reflectivity or reflecting power of a surface. It is defined as the ratio of reflected radiation from the surface to incident radiation upon it...

s for snow and ice cause rapid shifts in surface reflectivity
Reflectivity
In optics and photometry, reflectivity is the fraction of incident radiation reflected by a surface. In general it must be treated as a directional property that is a function of the reflected direction, the incident direction, and the incident wavelength...

 in autumn and spring in high latitudes, but the overall climatic significance of this increase is spatially and temporally modulated by cloud cover
Cloud cover
Cloud cover refers to the fraction of the sky obscured by clouds when observed from a particular location...

. (Planetary albedo
Albedo
Albedo , or reflection coefficient, is the diffuse reflectivity or reflecting power of a surface. It is defined as the ratio of reflected radiation from the surface to incident radiation upon it...

 is determined principally by cloud cover
Cloud cover
Cloud cover refers to the fraction of the sky obscured by clouds when observed from a particular location...

, and by the small amount of total solar radiation received in high latitudes during winter months.) Summer and autumn are times of high-average cloudiness over the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean, located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions...

 so the albedo
Albedo
Albedo , or reflection coefficient, is the diffuse reflectivity or reflecting power of a surface. It is defined as the ratio of reflected radiation from the surface to incident radiation upon it...

 feedback
Feedback
Feedback describes the situation when output from an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or occurrences of the same Feedback describes the situation when output from (or information about the result of) an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or...

 associated with the large seasonal changes in sea-ice extent is greatly reduced. Groisman et al. (1994a) observed that snow cover exhibited the greatest influence on the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 radiative balance
Irradiance
Irradiance is the power of electromagnetic radiation per unit area incident on a surface. Radiant emittance or radiant exitance is the power per unit area radiated by a surface. The SI units for all of these quantities are watts per square meter , while the cgs units are ergs per square centimeter...

 in the spring (April to May) period when incoming solar radiation was greatest over snow-covered areas.

The thermal
Thermal
A thermal column is a column of rising air in the lower altitudes of the Earth's atmosphere. Thermals are created by the uneven heating of the Earth's surface from solar radiation, and are an example of convection. The sun warms the ground, which in turn warms the air directly above it...

 properties of cryospheric elements also have important climatic consequences. Snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 and ice
Ice
Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

 have much lower thermal
Thermal
A thermal column is a column of rising air in the lower altitudes of the Earth's atmosphere. Thermals are created by the uneven heating of the Earth's surface from solar radiation, and are an example of convection. The sun warms the ground, which in turn warms the air directly above it...

 diffusivities than air. Thermal diffusivity
Diffusivity
Diffusivity can refer to:*Diffusivity of heat*Diffusivity of mass:** Molecular diffusivity ** Eddy diffusivity*Momentum diffusivity...

 is a measure of the speed at which temperature waves can penetrate a substance. Snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 and ice
Ice
Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

 are many orders of magnitude less efficient at diffusing heat than air. Snow cover insulates the ground surface, and sea ice insulates the underlying ocean, decoupling the surface-atmosphere interface with respect to both heat and moisture fluxes. The flux of moisture from a water surface is eliminated by even a thin skin of ice, whereas the flux of heat through thin ice continues to be substantial until it attains a thickness in excess of 30 to 40 cm. However, even a small amount of snow on top of the ice will dramatically reduce the heat flux and slow down the rate of ice growth. The insulating effect of snow also has major implications for the hydrological cycle. In non-permafrost regions, the insulating effect of snow is such that only near-surface ground freezes and deep-water drainage is uninterrupted.

While snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 and ice
Ice
Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

 act to insulate the surface from large energy losses in winter, they also act to retard warming in the spring and summer because of the large amount of energy required to melt ice (the latent heat
Latent heat
Latent heat is the heat released or absorbed by a chemical substance or a thermodynamic system during a process that occurs without a change in temperature. A typical example is a change of state of matter, meaning a phase transition such as the melting of ice or the boiling of water. The term was...

 of fusion, 3.34 x 105 J/kg at 0°C). However, the strong static stability of the atmosphere
Atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

 over areas of extensive snow or ice tends to confine the immediate cooling effect to a relatively shallow layer, so that associated atmospheric anomalies are usually short-lived and local to regional in scale. In some areas of the world such as Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

, however, the cooling associated with a heavy snowpack and moist spring soils is known to play a role in modulating the summer monsoon
Monsoon
Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea...

 circulation. Gutzler and Preston (1997) recently presented evidence for a similar snow-summer circulation feedback
Feedback
Feedback describes the situation when output from an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or occurrences of the same Feedback describes the situation when output from (or information about the result of) an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or...

 over the southwestern United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

The role of snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 cover in modulating the monsoon is just one example of a short-term cryosphere-climate feedback
Feedback
Feedback describes the situation when output from an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or occurrences of the same Feedback describes the situation when output from (or information about the result of) an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or...

 involving the land surface and the atmosphere
Atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

. From Figure 1 it can be seen that there are numerous cryosphere-climate feedbacks in the global climate system. These operate over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales from local seasonal cooling of air temperatures to hemispheric-scale variations in ice sheet
Ice sheet
An ice sheet is a mass of glacier ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than 50,000 km² , thus also known as continental glacier...

s over time-scales of thousands of years. The feedback
Feedback
Feedback describes the situation when output from an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or occurrences of the same Feedback describes the situation when output from (or information about the result of) an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or...

 mechanisms involved are often complex and incompletely understood. For example, Curry et al. (1995) showed that the so-called “simple” sea ice-albedo feedback involved complex interactions with lead fraction, melt ponds, ice thickness, snow cover, and sea-ice extent.

Snow


Snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 cover has the second-largest areal extent of any component of the cryosphere, with a mean maximum areal extent of approximately 47 million km². Most of the Earth’s snow-covered area (SCA) is located in the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

, and temporal
Time
Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

 variability is dominated by the seasonal cycle; Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 snow-cover extent ranges from 46.5 million km² in January to 3.8 million km² in August. North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

n winter SCA has exhibited an increasing trend over much of this century (Brown and Goodison 1996; Hughes et al. 1996) largely in response to an increase in precipitation. However, the available satellite
Satellite
In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavour. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon....

 data show that the hemispheric winter snow cover has exhibited little interannual variability over the 1972-1996 period, with a coefficient of variation (COV=s.d./mean) for January Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 cover of < 0.04. According to Groisman et al. (1994a) Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 spring snow cover should exhibit a decreasing trend to explain an observed increase in Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 spring air temperatures this century. Preliminary estimates of SCA from historical and reconstructed in situ
In situ
In situ is a Latin phrase which translated literally as 'In position'. It is used in many different contexts.-Aerospace:In the aerospace industry, equipment on board aircraft must be tested in situ, or in place, to confirm everything functions properly as a system. Individually, each piece may...

 snow-cover data suggest this is the case for Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

, but not for North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, where spring snow cover has remained close to current levels over most of this century. Because of the close relationship observed between hemispheric air temperature and snow-cover extent over the period of satellite
Satellite
In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavour. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon....

 data (IPCC 1996), there is considerable interest in monitoring Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 snow-cover extent for detecting and monitoring climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

.

Snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 cover is an extremely important storage component in the water balance, especially seasonal snowpack
Snowpack
Snowpack forms from layers of snow that accumulate in geographic regions and high altitudes where the climate includes cold weather for extended periods during the year. Snowpacks are an important water resource that feed streams and rivers as they melt. Snowpacks are the drinking water source for...

s in mountainous areas of the world. Though limited in extent, seasonal snowpack
Snowpack
Snowpack forms from layers of snow that accumulate in geographic regions and high altitudes where the climate includes cold weather for extended periods during the year. Snowpacks are an important water resource that feed streams and rivers as they melt. Snowpacks are the drinking water source for...

s in the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

’s mountain ranges account for the major source of the runoff for stream flow and groundwater
Groundwater
Groundwater is water located beneath the ground surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. A unit of rock or an unconsolidated deposit is called an aquifer when it can yield a usable quantity of water. The depth at which soil pore spaces or fractures and voids in rock...

 recharge over wide areas of the midlatitudes. For example, over 85% of the annual runoff from the Colorado River
Colorado River
The Colorado River , is a river in the Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, approximately long, draining a part of the arid regions on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. The watershed of the Colorado River covers in parts of seven U.S. states and two Mexican states...

 basin originates as snowmelt. Snowmelt
Snowmelt
In hydrology, snowmelt is surface runoff produced from melting snow. It can also be used to describe the period or season during which such runoff is produced. Water produced by snowmelt is an important part of the annual water cycle in many parts of the world, in some cases contributing high...

 runoff
Surface runoff
Surface runoff is the water flow that occurs when soil is infiltrated to full capacity and excess water from rain, meltwater, or other sources flows over the land. This is a major component of the water cycle. Runoff that occurs on surfaces before reaching a channel is also called a nonpoint source...

 from the Earth’s mountains fills the rivers and recharges the aquifers that over a billion people depend on for their water resources. Further, over 40% of the world’s protected areas are in mountains, attesting to their value both as unique ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

s needing protection and as recreation areas for humans. Climate warming is expected to result in major changes to the partitioning of snow and rainfall, and to the timing of snowmelt, which will have important implications for water use and management. These changes also involve potentially important decadal and longer time-scale feedback
Feedback
Feedback describes the situation when output from an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or occurrences of the same Feedback describes the situation when output from (or information about the result of) an event or phenomenon in the past will influence an occurrence or...

s to the climate system through temporal and spatial changes in soil moisture and runoff to the ocean
Ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

s.(Walsh 1995). Freshwater fluxes from the snow cover into the marine environment may be important, as the total flux is probably of the same magnitude as desalinated ridging and rubble areas of sea ice. In addition, there is an associated pulse of precipitated pollutants which accumulate over the Arctic winter in snowfall and are released into the ocean upon ablation
Ablation
Ablation is removal of material from the surface of an object by vaporization, chipping, or other erosive processes. This occurs in spaceflight during ascent and atmospheric reentry, glaciology, medicine, and passive fire protection.-Spaceflight:...

 of the sea-ice .

Sea ice


Sea ice
Sea ice
Sea ice is largely formed from seawater that freezes. Because the oceans consist of saltwater, this occurs below the freezing point of pure water, at about -1.8 °C ....

 covers much of the polar oceans and forms by freezing of sea water. Satellite
Satellite
In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavour. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon....

 data since the early 1970s reveal considerable seasonal, regional, and interannual variability in the sea-ice covers of both hemispheres. Seasonally, sea-ice extent in the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

 varies by a factor of 5, from a minimum of 3-4 million km² in February to a maximum of 17-20 million km² in September. The seasonal variation is much less in the Northern Hemisphere where the confined nature and high latitudes of the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean, located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions...

 result in a much larger perennial ice cover, and the surrounding land limits the equatorward extent of wintertime ice. Thus, the seasonal variability in Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 ice extent varies by only a factor of 2, from a minimum of 7-9 million km² in September to a maximum of 14-16 million km² in March.

The ice cover exhibits much greater regional-scale interannual variability than it does hemispherical. For instance, in the region of the Seas of Okhotsk and Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, maximum ice extent decreased from 1.3 million km² in 1983 to 0.85 million km² in 1984, a decrease of 35%, before rebounding the following year to 1.2 million km² . The regional fluctuations in both hemispheres are such that for any several-year period of the satellite
Satellite
In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavour. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon....

 record some regions exhibit decreasing ice coverage while others exhibit increasing ice cover. The overall trend indicated in the passive microwave record from 1978 through mid-1995 shows that the extent of Arctic sea ice is decreasing 2.7% per decade. Subsequent work with the satellite passive-microwave data indicates that from late October 1978 through the end of 1996 the extent of Arctic
Arctic
The Arctic is a region located at the northern-most part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost...

 sea ice
Sea ice
Sea ice is largely formed from seawater that freezes. Because the oceans consist of saltwater, this occurs below the freezing point of pure water, at about -1.8 °C ....

 decreased by 2.9% per decade while the extent of Antarctic
Antarctic
The Antarctic is the region around the Earth's South Pole, opposite the Arctic region around the North Pole. The Antarctic comprises the continent of Antarctica and the ice shelves, waters and island territories in the Southern Ocean situated south of the Antarctic Convergence...

 sea ice
Sea ice
Sea ice is largely formed from seawater that freezes. Because the oceans consist of saltwater, this occurs below the freezing point of pure water, at about -1.8 °C ....

 increased by 1.3% per decade.

Lake ice and river ice


Ice
Ice
Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

 forms on rivers and lakes in response to seasonal cooling. The sizes of the ice bodies involved are too small to exert other than localized climatic effects. However, the freeze-up/break-up processes respond to large-scale and local weather factors, such that considerable interannual variability exists in the dates of appearance and disappearance of the ice. Long series of lake-ice observations can serve as a proxy climate record, and the monitoring of freeze-up and break-up trends may provide a convenient integrated and seasonally specific index of climatic perturbations. Information on river-ice conditions is less useful as a climatic proxy because ice formation is strongly dependent on river-flow regime, which is affected by precipitation, snow melt, and watershed runoff as well as being subject to human interference that directly modifies channel flow, or that indirectly affects the runoff via land-use practices.

Lake
Lake
A lake is a body of relatively still fresh or salt water of considerable size, localized in a basin, that is surrounded by land. Lakes are inland and not part of the ocean and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are larger and deeper than ponds. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams,...

 freeze-up depends on the heat storage in the lake and therefore on its depth, the rate and temperature of any inflow
Inflow
Inflow may refer to:*Inflow - In hydrology, the source of the water in a body of water*Infiltration/Inflow, inappropriate connection of surface runoff drains into sanitary sewers*Inflow , air that flows inwards to a thunderstorm...

, and water-air energy fluxes. Information on lake depth is often unavailable, although some indication of the depth of shallow lakes in the Arctic
Arctic
The Arctic is a region located at the northern-most part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost...

 can be obtained from airborne radar imagery during late winter (Sellman et al. 1975) and spaceborne optical imagery during summer (Duguay and Lafleur 1997). The timing of breakup is modified by snow depth on the ice as well as by ice thickness and freshwater inflow
Inflow
Inflow may refer to:*Inflow - In hydrology, the source of the water in a body of water*Infiltration/Inflow, inappropriate connection of surface runoff drains into sanitary sewers*Inflow , air that flows inwards to a thunderstorm...

.

Frozen ground and permafrost


Frozen ground (permafrost and seasonally frozen ground) occupies approximately 54 million km² of the exposed land areas of the Northern Hemisphere (Zhang et al., 2003) and therefore has the largest areal extent of any component of the cryosphere. Permafrost
Permafrost
In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water for two or more years. Ice is not always present, as may be in the case of nonporous bedrock, but it frequently occurs and it may be in amounts exceeding the potential hydraulic saturation of...

 (perennially frozen ground) may occur where mean annual air temperatures (MAAT) are less than -1 or -2°C and is generally continuous where MAAT are less than -7°C. In addition, its extent and thickness are affected by ground moisture content, vegetation
Vegetation
Vegetation is a general term for the plant life of a region; it refers to the ground cover provided by plants. It is a general term, without specific reference to particular taxa, life forms, structure, spatial extent, or any other specific botanical or geographic characteristics. It is broader...

 cover, winter snow depth, and aspect. The global extent of permafrost is still not completely known, but it underlies approximately 20% of Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 land areas. Thicknesses exceed 600 m along the Arctic coast of northeastern Siberia and Alaska, but, toward the margins, permafrost becomes thinner and horizontally discontinuous. The marginal zones will be more immediately subject to any melting caused by a warming trend. Most of the presently existing permafrost formed during previous colder conditions and is therefore relic. However, permafrost may form under present-day polar climates where glaciers retreat or land emergence exposes unfrozen ground. Washburn (1973) concluded that most continuous permafrost is in balance with the present climate at its upper surface, but changes at the base depend on the present climate and geothermal heat flow; in contrast, most discontinuous permafrost is probably unstable or "in such delicate equilibrium that the slightest climatic or surface change will have drastic disequilibrium effects".

Under warming conditions, the increasing depth of the summer active layer
Active layer
In environments containing permafrost, the active layer is the top layer of soil that thaws during the summer and freezes again during the autumn. In all climates, whether they contain permafrost or not, the temperature in the lower levels of the soil will remain more stable than that at the...

 has significant impacts on the hydrologic and geomorphic regimes. Thawing and retreat of permafrost
Permafrost
In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water for two or more years. Ice is not always present, as may be in the case of nonporous bedrock, but it frequently occurs and it may be in amounts exceeding the potential hydraulic saturation of...

 have been reported in the upper Mackenzie Valley and along the southern margin of its occurrence in Manitoba
Manitoba
Manitoba is a Canadian prairie province with an area of . The province has over 110,000 lakes and has a largely continental climate because of its flat topography. Agriculture, mostly concentrated in the fertile southern and western parts of the province, is vital to the province's economy; other...

, but such observations are not readily quantified and generalized. Based on average latitudinal gradients of air temperature, an average northward displacement of the southern permafrost
Permafrost
In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water for two or more years. Ice is not always present, as may be in the case of nonporous bedrock, but it frequently occurs and it may be in amounts exceeding the potential hydraulic saturation of...

 boundary by 50-to-150 km could be expected, under equilibrium conditions, for a 1°C warming.

Only a fraction of the permafrost zone consists of actual ground ice. The remainder (dry permafrost) is simply soil or rock at subfreezing temperatures. The ice volume is generally greatest in the uppermost permafrost layers and mainly comprises pore and segregated ice in Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 material. Measurements of bore-hole temperatures in permafrost can be used as indicators of net changes in temperature regime. Gold and Lachenbruch (1973) infer a 2-4°C warming over 75 to 100 years at Cape Thompson, Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

, where the upper 25% of the 400-m thick permafrost
Permafrost
In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water for two or more years. Ice is not always present, as may be in the case of nonporous bedrock, but it frequently occurs and it may be in amounts exceeding the potential hydraulic saturation of...

 is unstable with respect to an equilibrium profile of temperature with depth (for the present mean annual surface temperature of -5°C). Maritime influences may have biased this estimate, however. At Prudhoe Bay similar data imply a 1.8°C warming over the last 100 years (Lachenbruch et al. 1982). Further complications may be introduced by changes in snow-cover depths and the natural or artificial disturbance of the surface vegetation.

The potential rates of permafrost thawing have been established by Osterkamp (1984) to be two centuries or less for 25-meter-thick permafrost in the discontinuous zone of interior Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

, assuming warming from -0.4 to 0°C in 3–4 years, followed by a further 2.6°C rise. Although the response of permafrost (depth) to temperature change is typically a very slow process (Osterkamp 1984; Koster 1993), there is ample evidence for the fact that the active layer
Active layer
In environments containing permafrost, the active layer is the top layer of soil that thaws during the summer and freezes again during the autumn. In all climates, whether they contain permafrost or not, the temperature in the lower levels of the soil will remain more stable than that at the...

 thickness quickly responds to a temperature change (Kane et al. 1991). Whether, under a warming or cooling scenario, global climate change will have a significant effect on the duration of frost-free periods in both regions with seasonally- and perennially-frozen ground.

Glaciers and ice sheets


Ice sheet
Ice sheet
An ice sheet is a mass of glacier ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than 50,000 km² , thus also known as continental glacier...

s and glacier
Glacier
A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

s are flowing ice masses that rest on solid land. They are controlled by snow accumulation, surface and basal melt, calving into surrounding oceans or lakes and internal dynamics. The latter results from gravity-driven creep flow ("glacial flow") within the ice body and sliding on the underlying land, which leads to thinning and horizontal spreading. Any imbalance of this dynamic equilibrium between mass gain, loss and transport due to flow results in either growing or shrinking ice bodies.

Ice sheets are the greatest potential source of global freshwater, holding approximately 77% of the global total. This corresponds to 80 m of world sea-level equivalent, with Antarctica accounting for 90% of this. Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

 accounts for most of the remaining 10%, with other ice bodies and glaciers accounting for less than 0.5%. Because of their size in relation to annual rates of snow accumulation and melt, the residence time of water in ice sheets can extend to 100,000 or 1 million years. Consequently, any climatic perturbations produce slow responses, occurring over glacial and interglacial periods. Valley glaciers respond rapidly to climatic fluctuations with typical response times of 10–50 years. However, the response of individual glaciers may be asynchronous to the same climatic forcing because of differences in glacier length, elevation, slope, and speed of motion. Oerlemans (1994) provided evidence of coherent global glacier retreat
Glacier retreat
Glacier retreat or glacial retreat is discussed in several articles, depending on the time frame of interest, and whether the climatological process or individual glaciers are being considered. Articles on these topics include:...

 which could be explained by a linear warming trend of 0.66°C per 100 years.

While glacier variations are likely to have minimal effects upon global climate, their recession may have contributed one third to one half of the observed 20th Century rise in sea level (Meier 1984; IPCC 1996). Furthermore, it is extremely likely that such extensive glacier recession as is currently observed in the Western Cordillera of North America, where runoff from glacierized basins is used for irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

 and hydropower
Hydropower
Hydropower, hydraulic power, hydrokinetic power or water power is power that is derived from the force or energy of falling water, which may be harnessed for useful purposes. Since ancient times, hydropower has been used for irrigation and the operation of various mechanical devices, such as...

, involves significant hydrological and ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

 impacts. Effective water-resource planning and impact mitigation in such areas depends upon developing a sophisticated knowledge of the status of glacier ice and the mechanisms that cause it to change. Furthermore, a clear understanding of the mechanisms at work is crucial to interpreting the global-change signals that are contained in the time series of glacier mass balance
Glacier mass balance
Crucial to the survival of a glacier is its mass balance, the difference between accumulation and ablation . Climate change may cause variations in both temperature and snowfall, causing changes in mass balance. Changes in mass balance control a glacier's long term behavior and is the most...

 records.

Combined glacier mass balance
Glacier mass balance
Crucial to the survival of a glacier is its mass balance, the difference between accumulation and ablation . Climate change may cause variations in both temperature and snowfall, causing changes in mass balance. Changes in mass balance control a glacier's long term behavior and is the most...

 estimates of the large ice sheets carry an uncertainty of about 20%. Studies based on estimated snowfall and mass output tend to indicate that the ice sheets are near balance or taking some water out of the oceans. Marinebased studies suggest sea-level rise from the Antarctic or rapid ice-shelf basal melting. Some authors (Paterson 1993; Alley 1997) have suggested that the difference between the observed rate of sea-level rise (roughly 2 mm/y) and the explained rate of sea-level rise from melting of mountain glaciers, thermal expansion of the ocean, etc. (roughly 1 mm/y or less) is similar to the modeled imbalance in the Antarctic
Antarctic
The Antarctic is the region around the Earth's South Pole, opposite the Arctic region around the North Pole. The Antarctic comprises the continent of Antarctica and the ice shelves, waters and island territories in the Southern Ocean situated south of the Antarctic Convergence...

 (roughly 1 mm/y of sea-level rise; Huybrechts 1990), suggesting a contribution of sea-level rise from the Antarctic.

Relationships between global climate and changes in ice extent are complex. The mass balance of land-based glaciers and ice sheets is determined by the accumulation of snow, mostly in winter, and warm-season ablation
Ablation
Ablation is removal of material from the surface of an object by vaporization, chipping, or other erosive processes. This occurs in spaceflight during ascent and atmospheric reentry, glaciology, medicine, and passive fire protection.-Spaceflight:...

 due primarily to net radiation and turbulent heat fluxes to melting ice and snow from warm-air advection,(Munro 1990). However, most of Antarctica never experiences surface melting. Where ice masses terminate in the ocean
Ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

, iceberg calving
Ice calving
Ice calving, also known as glacier calving or iceberg calving, is a form of ice ablation or ice disruption. It is the sudden release and breaking away of a mass of ice from a glacier, iceberg, ice front, ice shelf, or crevasse...

 is the major contributor to mass loss. In this situation, the ice margin may extend out into deep water as a floating ice shelf
Ice shelf
An ice shelf is a thick, floating platform of ice that forms where a glacier or ice sheet flows down to a coastline and onto the ocean surface. Ice shelves are only found in Antarctica, Greenland and Canada. The boundary between the floating ice shelf and the grounded ice that feeds it is called...

, such as that in the Ross Sea
Ross Sea
The Ross Sea is a deep bay of the Southern Ocean in Antarctica between Victoria Land and Marie Byrd Land.-Description:The Ross Sea was discovered by James Ross in 1841. In the west of the Ross Sea is Ross Island with the Mt. Erebus volcano, in the east Roosevelt Island. The southern part is covered...

. Despite the possibility that global warming could result in losses to the Greenland ice sheet
Greenland ice sheet
The Greenland ice sheet is a vast body of ice covering , roughly 80% of the surface of Greenland. It is the second largest ice body in the world, after the Antarctic Ice Sheet. The ice sheet is almost long in a north-south direction, and its greatest width is at a latitude of 77°N, near its...

 being offset by gains to the Antarctic ice sheet
Antarctic ice sheet
The Antarctic ice sheet is one of the two polar ice caps of the Earth. It covers about 98% of the Antarctic continent and is the largest single mass of ice on Earth. It covers an area of almost 14 million square km and contains 30 million cubic km of ice...

, there is major concern about the possibility of a West Antarctic Ice Sheet
West Antarctic Ice Sheet
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is the segment of the continental ice sheet that covers West Antarctica, the portion of Antarctica on the side of the Transantarctic Mountains which lies in the Western Hemisphere. The WAIS is classified as a marine-based ice sheet, meaning that its bed lies well...

 collapse. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is grounded on bedrock below sea level, and its collapse has the potential of raising the world sea level 6–7 m over a few hundred years.

Most of the discharge of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
West Antarctic Ice Sheet
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is the segment of the continental ice sheet that covers West Antarctica, the portion of Antarctica on the side of the Transantarctic Mountains which lies in the Western Hemisphere. The WAIS is classified as a marine-based ice sheet, meaning that its bed lies well...

 is via the five major ice streams (faster flowing ice) entering the Ross Ice Shelf
Ross Ice Shelf
The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf of Antarctica . It is several hundred metres thick. The nearly vertical ice front to the open sea is more than 600 km long, and between 15 and 50 metres high above the water surface...

, the Rutford Ice Stream
Rutford Ice Stream
Rutford Ice Stream is a major Antarctic ice stream, about 180 miles long and over 15 miles wide, which drains southeastward between the Sentinel Range, Ellsworth Mountains and Fletcher Ice Rise into the southwest part of Ronne Ice Shelf...

 entering Ronne-Filchner shelf of the Weddell Sea
Weddell Sea
The Weddell Sea is part of the Southern Ocean and contains the Weddell Gyre. Its land boundaries are defined by the bay formed from the coasts of Coats Land and the Antarctic Peninsula. The easternmost point is Cape Norvegia at Princess Martha Coast, Queen Maud Land. To the east of Cape Norvegia is...

, and the Thwaites Glacier and Pine Island Glacier
Pine Island Glacier
- Ice sheet drainage :The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest mass of ice on earth, containing a volume of water equivalent to of global sea level. The ice sheet forms from snow which falls onto the continent and compacts under its own weight. The ice then moves under its own weight toward the...

 entering the Amundsen Ice Shelf. Opinions differ as to the present mass balance of these systems (Bentley 1983, 1985), principally because of the limited data. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is stable so long as the Ross Ice Shelf
Ross Ice Shelf
The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf of Antarctica . It is several hundred metres thick. The nearly vertical ice front to the open sea is more than 600 km long, and between 15 and 50 metres high above the water surface...

 is constrained by drag along its lateral boundaries and pinned by local grounding.

See also

  • Ice
    Ice
    Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

  • Snow
    Snow
    Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

  • Sea ice
    Sea ice
    Sea ice is largely formed from seawater that freezes. Because the oceans consist of saltwater, this occurs below the freezing point of pure water, at about -1.8 °C ....

  • Glaciers
  • Ice cap
    Ice cap
    An ice cap is an ice mass that covers less than 50 000 km² of land area . Masses of ice covering more than 50 000 km² are termed an ice sheet....

  • Ice sheet
    Ice sheet
    An ice sheet is a mass of glacier ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than 50,000 km² , thus also known as continental glacier...

  • Permafrost
    Permafrost
    In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water for two or more years. Ice is not always present, as may be in the case of nonporous bedrock, but it frequently occurs and it may be in amounts exceeding the potential hydraulic saturation of...

  • Active layer
    Active layer
    In environments containing permafrost, the active layer is the top layer of soil that thaws during the summer and freezes again during the autumn. In all climates, whether they contain permafrost or not, the temperature in the lower levels of the soil will remain more stable than that at the...

  • Hydrosphere
    Hydrosphere
    A hydrosphere in physical geography describes the combined mass of water found on, under, and over the surface of a planet....


Further reading


Brown, R. D., and P. Cote, 1992: Interannual variability in landfast ice thickness in the Canadian High Arctic, 1950-89. Arctic, 45, 273-284.

Brown, R. D., and B. E. Goodison, 1996: Interannual variability in reconstructed Canadian snow cover, 1915-1992. J. Climate, 9, 1299-1318.

Chahine, M. T., 1992: The hydrological cycle and its influence on climate. Nature, 359, 373-380.

Flato, G. M., and R. D. Brown, 1996: Variability and climate sensitivity of landfast Arctic sea ice. J. Geophys. Res., 101(C10), 25,767-25,777.

Groisman, P. Ya, T. R. Karl, and R. W. Knight, 1994b: Changes of snow cover, temperature and radiative heat balance over the Northern Hemisphere. J. Climate, 7, 1633-1656.

Harder, M., 1997: Role of precipitation in numerical simulations of arctic sea ice and related freshwater balance. Proc. Workshop on the
implementation of the Arctic Precipitation Data Archive at the Global Precipitation Climatology Centre, WCRP-98, WMO/TD No. 804, 26-30.

Hughes, M. G., A. Frei, and D. A. Robinson, 1996: Historical analysis
of North American snow cover extent: merging satellite and station-
derived snow cover observations. Proc. 53rd Eastern Snow
Conference, Williamsburg, Virginia, 21-31.

Huybrechts, P., 1990: The Antarctic ice sheet during the last glacialinterglacial cycle: a three-dimensional experiment. Annals of Glaciology, 14, 115-119.

IPCC, 1996: Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change.
Houghton, J. T., L. G. Meira Filho, B. A. Callander, N. Harris, A.
Kattenberg, and K. Maskell (eds.), Contribution of WGI to the
Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK,
572 pp.

Ledley, T. S., 1991: Snow on sea ice: competing effects in shaping climate. J. Geophys. Res., 96, 17,195-17,208.

Ledley, T. S., 1993: Variations in snow on sea ice: a mechanism for
producing climate variations. J. Geophys. Res., 98(D6), 10,401-10,410.

Lynch-Stieglitz, M., 1994: The development and validation of a simple
snow model for the GISS GCM. J. Climate, 7, 1842-1855.

Martin, S., K. Steffen, J. Comiso, D. Cavalieri, M. R. Drinkwater, and
B. Holt, 1992: Microwave remote sensing of polynyas. In: Carsey,
F. D. (ed.), Microwave remote sensing of sea ice, Washington, DC, American Geophysical Union, 1992, 303-311.

Meier, M. F., 1984: Contribution of small glaciers to global sea level rise. Science, 226, 1418-1421.

Parkinson, C. L., J. C. Comiso, H. J. Zwally, D. J. Cavalieri, P. Gloersen, and W. J. Campbell, 1987: Arctic Sea Ice, 1973-1976: Satellite Passive-Microwave Observations, NASA SP-489, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C., 296 pp.

Paterson, W. S. B., 1993: World sea level and the present mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet. In: W.R. Peltier (ed.), Ice in the Climate
System, NATO ASI Series, I12, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 131-140.

Robinson, D. A., K. F. Dewey, and R. R. Heim, 1993: Global snow cover monitoring: an update. Bull. Amer. Meteorol. Soc., 74, 1689-1696.

Steffen, K., and A. Ohmura, 1985: Heat exchange and surface conditions in North Water, northern Baffin Bay. Annals of Glaciology, 6, 178-181.

Van den Broeke, M. R., 1996: The atmospheric boundary layer over ice sheets and glaciers. Utrecht, Universitiet Utrecht, 178 pp. Van den Broeke, M. R., and R. Bintanja, 1995: The interaction of katabatic wind and the formation of blue ice areas in East Antarctica. J. Glaciology, 41, 395-407.

Welch, H. E., 1992: Energy flow through the marine ecosystem of the Lancaster Sound region, Arctic Canada. Arctic, 45, 343.

B. E. Goodison, R. D. Brown, and R. G. Crane. (1999). Chapter 6: Cyrospheric systems. Earth Observing System (EOS) Science Plan. NASA.

Olav Slaymaker and Richard E J Kelly. The cryosphere and global environmental change. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. ISBN 140512976X.

External links