What is the Cryosphere?

The cryosphere is a term for the regions of our globe which are covered in ice and snow – either seasonally or year-round. Climate change is happening in the cryosphere faster and more dramatically than anywhere else on earth.



The Cryosphere

Climate change is happening faster and in a dramatically more visible way in the Earth’s cryosphere: the snow and ice-dominated regions around both the North and South Poles, and in high mountains.  Whether high latitude or high altitude, temperatures in these places already have warmed by at least twice the global average.  As a result, the ecosystems and communities in these fragile and beautiful places are disintegrating, in some cases right beneath our feet, as ice and ground (permafrost) melt away.

But the greatest threat of this rapidly-warming cryosphere lies no longer in these regions themselves.  Instead, the most catastrophic and wide-ranging impact of our disintegrating cryosphere is on the entire Earth: sea-level rise from melting glaciers and ice sheets; loss of snowpack for water needs; polar seas and fisheries whose cold waters acidify faster, with damage to polar shell-building animals already today; carbon releases from permafrost the size of a top-20 greenhouse gas emitter, plus shrinking sea ice in the Arctic at all times of year: both impacts that are warming the planet faster and further.

Most of these impacts from a disintegrating cryosphere cannot be rolled back, even should we manage to pull temperatures down again.  Our only workable option is never to let temperatures get that high at all.  Protection of the cryosphere is not only about protecting the peoples
and species that live there.
  It is about protecting all of us.

Learn About The Cryosphere

Integrated Solutions

The cryosphere is different, requiring different yet complementary climate solutions to those of the globe as a whole. For example, black carbon or soot, especially from sources close to these polar or mountain regions, lands on ice and snow and causes it to melt more quickly; so reductions can help slow snow and ice loss, while also improving human health closer to the source of these emissions, whether a small cookstove, or massive wildfire.  Reductions of methane from human activity might also help offset emissions of this greenhouse gas coming from warming permafrost.

ICCI seeks to find new and integrated solutions for these challenges, and in particular has worked over the past decade to reduce black carbon emissions in near-cryosphere regions from agricultural sector burning, and from heating and cooking stoves.

ICCI’s Approach

Our Work

We believe that much can be accomplished if many partners work together, and ICCI worries less about credit than accomplishing needed solutions at all levels. ICCI therefore strives to work innovatively, yet without fanfare and in a sustained manner, to create new partnerships and approaches together with cryosphere scientists, governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector – yet always with the clock ticking for the cryosphere’s survival.

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