The Earth’s cryosphere is on the verge of extinction as a new study finds it shrinking by about 33,000 square miles (87,000 square kilometers) each year from 1979 to 2016. That’s an area equivalent to Lake Superior.
The study “A Holistic Assessment of 1979-2016 Global Cryospheric Extent” published in the journal AGU The future of the earth, is the first to make a global estimate of the surface of the world’s sea ice, as well as snow cover and frozen ground.
Like ordinary earth, the Earth’s cryosphere is also essential for the global ecosystem because it helps cool the planet by effectively reflecting sunlight. But with climate change, the size and location of ice and snow changes and changes sea level and ocean currents.
Global Cryosphere: Study Finds Global Sea Ice Shrink By 33,000 Square Miles A Year
Know the Earth’s cryosphere
Scientists call the frozen places on Earth the cryosphere, which comes from the Greek word for cold “kryos”. These cold regions of the Earth influence the climate of the entire planet and are at the heart of the daily life of the living beings who have made them their home.
According to the National Ice and Snow Data Center, the cryosphere specifically describes the frozen region of Earth, and people most likely think it is found in the upper or lower parts of the planet and in the polar regions. The North Pole is called the Arctic, while the South Pole is called the Antarctic, both regions are made up of ice and snow.
The Arctic has a lot of sea ice and permafrost. Glaciers, ice and snow cover neighboring lands, including Greenland. Meanwhile, at the South Pole, Antarctica is an icy continent where huge ice caps cover the land and the ocean.
But there is also ice between the poles, like the snow that covers Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, the frozen ground in the mountains of the United States and the northern parts of Russia, China and Canada.
Typically, the cryosphere is the area of sea ice, glaciers, ice shelves and icebergs, and even frozen ground. They are part of the ecosystem which is now threatened by climate change as they are slowly disappearing every year. They hold most of the fresh water and their declining numbers could threaten the drinking water supply.
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Although the cryosphere can grow or expand depending on the season, researchers in the new study found that the Earth’s cryosphere has been shrinking since 1979 due to rising air temperatures.
According to Phys.org, the shrinkage is mostly occurring in the northern hemisphere, which has experienced a loss of 39,300 square miles (102,000 square kilometers), or about half of Kansas each year.
Although this loss is slightly offset by growth in the southern hemisphere with an estimated expansion of about 5,400 square miles (14,000 square kilometers). The growth is widely observed in the Ross Sea around Antarctica.
In addition, it is estimated that not only is the global cryosphere shrinking, but many regions of the planet have been frozen for less time. For example, researchers found that the average first day of freezing occurs about 3.6 days later than in 1979, and that the ice is melting about 5.7 days earlier than before.
The researchers said a global dataset is now available to probe the impact of climate change on the cryosphere and how it will affect ecosystems, carbon exchanges and the timing of animal and plant life cycles.
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