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Quick facts about the Cryosphere (National Snow and Ice Data Center)
Cyrosphere (National Ocean Service, NOAA)


ice : a sheet or stretch of ice — Webster

OneLook, Free Dictionary, Wiktionary


Ice is water frozen into a solid state. Depending on the presence of impurities such as particles of soil or bubbles of air, it can appear transparent or a more or less opaque bluish-white color.

In the Solar System, ice is abundant and occurs naturally from as close to the Sun as Mercury to as far away as the Oort cloud objects. Beyond the Solar System, it occurs as interstellar ice. It is abundant on Earth’s surface – particularly in the polar regions and above the snow line – and, as a common form of precipitation and deposition, plays a key role in Earth’s water cycle and climate. It falls as snowflakes and hail or occurs as frost, icicles or — Wikipedia

Cryosphere consists of those portions of Earth’s surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, and frozen ground (which includes permafrost). Thus, there is a wide overlap with the hydrosphere. The cryosphere is an integral part of the global climate system with important linkages and feedbacks generated through its influence on surface energy and moisture fluxes, clouds, precipitation, hydrology, atmospheric and oceanic circulation. Through these feedback processes, the cryosphere plays a significant role in the global climate and in climate model response to global changes. The term deglaciation describes the retreat of cryospheric features. — Wikipedia

Glacier is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight; it forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation (melting and sublimation) over many years, often centuries. Glaciers slowly deform and flow due to stresses induced by their weight, creating crevasses, seracs, and other distinguishing features. They also abrade rock and debris from their substrate to create landforms such as cirques and moraines. Glaciers form only on land and are distinct from the much thinner sea ice and lake ice that form on the surface of bodies of water.

On Earth, 99% of glacial ice is contained within vast ice sheets (also known as “continental glaciers”) in the polar regions, but glaciers may be found in mountain ranges on every continent including Oceania’s high-latitude oceanic islands such as New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Between 35°N and 35°S, glaciers occur only in the Himalayas, Andes, Rocky Mountains, a few high mountains in East Africa, Mexico, New Guinea and on Zard Kuh in Iran. Glaciers cover about 10 percent of Earth’s land surface. Continental glaciers cover nearly 13 million km2 (5 million sq mi) or about 98 percent of Antarctica’s 13.2 million km2 (5.1 million sq mi), with an average thickness of 2,100 m (7,000 ft). Greenland and Patagonia also have huge expanses of continental glaciers.

Glacial ice is the largest reservoir of fresh water on Earth. Many glaciers from temperate, alpine and seasonal polar climates store water as ice during the colder seasons and release it later in the form of meltwater as warmer summer temperatures cause the glacier to melt, creating a water source that is especially important for plants, animals and human uses when other sources may be scant. Within high-altitude and Antarctic environments, the seasonal temperature difference is often not sufficient to release meltwater. — Wikipedia


National Snow Ice Data Center



Cryospheric Animations (NASA Scientific Visualization Studio)




Why does our planet experience an ice age every 100,000 years? (Cardiff University,


Ancient ice reveals vital clues about Earth’s past climate (Dan Elliott,
National Ice Core Facility (National Science Foundation)


WorldCat, Library of Congress, UPenn Online Books, Open Library





OER Commons: Open Educational Resources



The Cryosphere Journal (European Geosciences Union)
National Snow Ice Data Center,







Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis Sea ice data updated daily with one-day lag

  • Arctic sea ice minimum ties for tenth lowest
    by Agnieszka Gautier on September 22, 2022 at 5:00 pm

    On September 18, Arctic sea ice likely reached its annual minimum extent of 4.67 million square kilometers (1.80 million square miles). The 2022 minimum is tied for tenth lowest in the nearly 44-year satellite record, with 2018 and 2017. The last 16 years, … Continue reading →

  • The sun sets on the melt season
    by Audrey Payne on September 20, 2022 at 7:25 pm

    The sun is about to set for the winter at the North Pole, and so the 2022 sea ice melt season is coming to an end. As of September 19, 2022, Arctic sea ice extent stood at 4.68 million square … Continue reading →

  • The Arctic’s bald spot
    by Agnieszka Gautier on September 6, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    Summer in the Arctic is drawing to a close, and sea ice extent is likely to remain higher than in recent years. Several polynyas have formed poleward of 85 degrees North within the pack as well as areas near the … Continue reading →

  • Summer’s waning light
    by Agnieszka Gautier on August 17, 2022 at 4:48 pm

    As the sun dips lower on the horizon, air temperatures over the central Arctic Ocean are dropping to near freezing conditions. Further retreat of the ice cover will largely depend on ocean temperatures and wind patterns that can either compact … Continue reading →

  • Unknowns lie ahead
    by Audrey Payne on August 2, 2022 at 10:22 pm

    The seasonal decline in Arctic sea ice extent from mid-July onward has proceeded at a near average pace. Extent is currently well below average, but above that observed for recent years. Extent is particularly low in the Laptev Sea sector, … Continue reading → - latest science and technology news stories internet news portal provides the latest news on science including: Physics, Nanotechnology, Life Sciences, Space Science, Earth Science, Environment, Health and Medicine.

  • Marine ice sheets were decisive in acceleration...
    on September 30, 2022 at 12:56 pm

    The intensity and rate of melt during the penultimate ice melting was much higher than previously thought, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications. According to conclusions of the study, in this climate change scenario, the instability of marine-based ice sheets—those that flow directly into the ocean—was instrumental in accelerating global warming.

  • Refreezing Earth's poles feasible and cheap, new...
    on September 16, 2022 at 1:46 pm

    The poles are warming several times faster than the global average, causing record smashing heatwaves that were reported earlier this year in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Melting ice and collapsing glaciers at high latitudes would accelerate sea level rise around the planet. Fortunately, refreezing the poles by reducing incoming sunlight would be both feasible and remarkably cheap, according to new research published today in Environmental Research Communications.

  • Glaciers flowed on ancient Mars, but slowly
    on September 7, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    The weight and grinding movement of glaciers has carved distinctive valleys and fjords into Earth's surface. Because Mars lacks similar landscapes, researchers believed ancient ice masses on the Red Planet must have been frozen firmly to the ground. New research suggests they were not stuck in place, but just moved very slowly.

  • Study: Already shrunk by half, Swiss glaciers...
    on August 27, 2022 at 4:00 pm

    Switzerland's 1,400 glaciers have lost more than half their total volume since the early 1930s, a new study has found, and researchers say the ice retreat is accelerating at a time of growing concerns about climate change.

  • A historical perspective on glacial retreat
    on August 22, 2022 at 12:50 pm

    Researchers at ETH Zurich and WSL have for the first time reconstructed the extent of Switzerland's glacier ice loss in the 20th century. For this purpose, the researchers used historical imagery and conclude that the country's glaciers lost half their volume between 1931 and 2016.

TC - recent papers Combined list of the recent articles of the journal The Cryosphere and the recent discussion forum The Cryosphere Discussions

  • Comprehensive evaluation of black carbon effect...
    on September 30, 2022 at 12:22 pm

    Comprehensive evaluation of black carbon effect on glacier melting on the Laohugou Glacier No. 12, Western Qilian Mountains Jizu Chen, Wentao Du, Shichang Kang, Xiang Qin, Weijun Sun, Yang Li, Yushuo Liu, Lihui Luo, and Youyan Jiang The Cryosphere Discuss., https//,2022 Preprint under review for TC (discussion: open, 0 comments) This study developed a dynamic deposition model […]

  • Inverting ice surface elevation and velocity for...
    on September 29, 2022 at 12:22 pm

    Inverting ice surface elevation and velocity for bed topography and slipperiness beneath Thwaites Glacier Helen Ockenden, Robert G. Bingham, Andrew Curtis, and Daniel Goldberg The Cryosphere, 16, 3867–3887,, 2022 Hills and valleys hidden under the ice of Thwaites Glacier have an impact on ice flow and future ice loss, but there are not many three-dimensional observations of their […]

  • Hysteretic evolution of ice rises and ice rumples...
    on September 29, 2022 at 12:22 pm

    Hysteretic evolution of ice rises and ice rumples in response to variations in sea level A. Clara J. Henry, Reinhard Drews, Clemens Schannwell, and Vjeran Višnjević The Cryosphere, 16, 3889–3905,, 2022 We used a 3D, idealised model to study features in coastal Antarctica called ice rises and ice rumples. These features regulate the rate of ice flow into the ocean. We show that when […]

  • Central Asia's spatiotemporal glacier response...
    on September 28, 2022 at 12:22 pm

    Central Asia's spatiotemporal glacier response ambiguity due to data inconsistencies and regional simplifications Martina Barandun and Eric Pohl The Cryosphere Discuss., https//,2022 Preprint under review for TC (discussion: open, 0 comments) Meteorological and glacier mass balance data scarcity introduces large uncertainties about drivers of heterogeneous glacier mass balance […]

  • Brief communication: A continuous formulation of...
    on September 27, 2022 at 12:22 pm

    Brief communication: A continuous formulation of microwave scattering from fresh snow to bubbly ice from first principles Ghislain Picard, Henning Löwe, and Christian Mätzler The Cryosphere, 16, 3861–3866,, 2022 Microwave satellite observations used to monitor the cryosphere require radiative transfer models for their interpretation. These models represent how microwaves are scattered […]


Here are links to pages about closely related subjects.

Knowledge Realm


Sphere Land, Ice, Water (Ocean), Air
Ecosystem Forest, Grassland, Desert, Arctic, Aquatic

Life Cell, Gene, Tree of Life
Plant Flower, Tree
Invertebrate Cuttlefish, Octopus, Ant, Bee, Butterfly, Spider, Lobster
Vertebrate Fish, Seahorse, Ray, Shark, Frog, Turtle, Tortoise, Dinosaur
Bird, Ostrich, Owl, Crow, Parrot
Mammal Bat, Rabbit, Giraffe, Camel, Horse, Elephant, Mammoth
Whale, Dolphin, Walrus, Seal, Polar Bear, Bear, Cat, Tiger, Lion, Dog, Wolf
Monkey, Chimpanzee, Human


1.   The resources on this page are are organized by a classification scheme developed exclusively for Cosma.