Why Cry for the Cryosphere?

The headline is a sentence that comes toward the end of Vanishing Icea new book that answers the question in encyclopedic detail. For those unfamiliar with the term, the cryosphere is the earth’s natural ice in all its forms.

Kevin Krajick
June 11, 2019

Author Vivien Gornitz, a NASA science collaborator and retired special research scientist at Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research, takes readers through the basic physics of them: glaciers, ice sheets, ice shelves, sea ice, icebergs, permafrost and methane hydrates. Then she dives deep into the ongoing retrenchment of all of them, brought on by warming of the planet. She paints a daunting and detailed picture, ranging from the dramatic collapse of great Antarctic ice fronts into the Southern Ocean, to the insidious and poorly charted workings of under-glacier river systems and sudden blooms of sun-fed algae spreading across the surface of the Greenland ice sheet.

the sky is blue with a spotted white cloud while glaciers in various sizes drift across the blue water with mountains covered in ice are in the farr off distance

As Gornitz points out, what happens in the Arctic (or any other cold place) doesn’t stay in the Arctic. Rising sea levels driven in part by melting ice are lapping at the shores of New York City, and flooding farmers in Bangladesh and Vietnam. Ecosystems from the Canadian Arctic to the equatorial Andes are threatened. So are cities and farms that depend on seasonal meltwater from distant mountain glaciers, and native communities that depend on wildlife hunted on fast-declining northern sea ice.

Read more about Why Cry for the Cryosphere? on State of the Planet, a blog from The Earth Institute