The Cryosphere

Research shows that the phenomenon of climate change, with snow, ice and permafrost melting is a global challenge with many cross-region similarities despite wide separations in geography.  Climate change already is affecting the Arctic, the Antarctic and high altitude areas such as the Himalayas and the Andes.

One overarching trend in these regions is that measured changes are occurring in ways far more extreme than those forecast in even the most pessimistic scenarios of a few years ago.  In the IPCC’s 2007 Fourth Assessment for example, the outer extreme estimate for sea level rise (mostly from glacier ice melt) was about 1 meter by the end of this century.  Just a few years later, the 2011 Arctic Council SWIPA report forecast that rise as the mean, or average expected rise.  As many scientists put it, in the cryosphere, “the extremes are becoming the mean.”

The International Polar Year of 2007-08 did much to update human knowledge of climate impacts in these regions, with the participation of thousands of scientists across many disciplines (see www.ipy.org).  Explore the pages below for basic information on these disparate regions; see our Programs pages for information on current activities and plans to address them.