Snow, water, ice and permafrost in the Arctic

What is the cryosphere?

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The SWIPA website explores Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic, hence the name.

The site has been developed as part of AMAP: the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme. This is a long term project to monitor change in the arctic region.

The cryosphere involves a series of elements. 'Cryo' refers to low temperatures (from the Greek word 'kryo'), and the cryosphere is the frozen water part of the earth's hydrological system. The absence of liquid water means that there is little vegetation, and those species which can survive tend to grow close to the ground and incredibly slowly.

Cryosphere diagram

Increased warming may affect these frozen regions first, before the effects spread beyond them. The SWIPA video clip (see above) highlights some of these changes:

  • Warming over the Arctic of between 3 and 7°C by 2100
  • Sea level rise between 90cm and 1.6m by 2100
  • Loss of summer sea ice between 30 and 40 years
  • More abrupt changes rather than smooth changes

The recent BBC series 'Frozen Planet' has created renewed interest in the polar regions of the Earth. The potential impacts of the loss of sea ice on polar bears, reducing their ability to hunt, is a high-profile example of the sort of changes that may take place within our lifetime. The SWIPA report has much larger remit, and has considered all aspect of the changes that are taking place in the Arctic. Explore the sections on this webpage to discover more.

Points to consider

The movie says: "The earth's climate is undergoing change – and the scientific evidence supports this".

In the movie, Walt Meier from the University of Colorado, calls the Arctic a 'canary in a coalmine' – what does he mean by that?

Find out more


Home | 1: Climate change | 2: Living on the edge | 3: Arctic science | 4: Hunter or hunted? | 5: Postcard from the edge | 6: Troubled waters | 7: Resources from the edge | 8: Arctic Circumpolar Governance | 9: Snow, water, ice, permafrost | 10: Adapting to change

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