What do you understand by cryosphere? Why cryosphere is receding and what are the consequences of the loss of the cryosphere? Read the article to know all the important in-depth information.
The cryosphere comprises frozen parts of the earth such as glaciers, snow, and permafrost. Of the total freshwater found on earth, over 68 percent is locked up in ice and glaciers and another 30 percent of freshwater is in the ground.
The term “cryosphere” traces its origins to the Greek word ‘Kryos’ for frost or ice cold.
According to the latest World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) Provisional State of the Global Climate in 2022 report, the cryosphere is receding drastically.
Major Cryosphere Elements
- Solid Precipitation
- Sea Ice
- Lake and River Ice
- Ice Sheets
- Ice Shelves
Cryospheric regions are the least studied component of the earth system due to the paucity of observations, remoteness, extremely challenging field conditions, and limited time window in a year. The “Cryosphere and Climate” initiated by MoES during the 12th five-year plan have enhanced our understanding of the Antarctic cryosphere and climate variability.
According to the newly formed “Ambition on Melting Ice on Sea-level Rise and Mountain Water Resources” group, the melting of the cryosphere, or regions of the planet with frozen water, as a result of climate change, is a threat that will affect all countries, not just those in mountainous or polar regions.
As stated in the sixth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Changes in the cryosphere will intensify with each additional increment of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.”
Consequences of Receding Cryosphere
Submerge coastal areas with a rise in sea level that will threaten coastal communities, island nations, and low-lying regions with obliteration.
Elevate sea levels that can erase entire geographies off the world map, endanger marine and coastal ecosystems and cause immense economic losses.
The overall rise in surface temperatures triggers the retreat of subsurface ice, such as permafrost, and causes the release of previously trapped greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.
As the cryosphere is warming more water vapor can be released into the atmosphere by sublimation (change from solid to gas phase) and evaporation (change from liquid to gas phase).
The rise in temperature brought on by the increase in greenhouse gas emissions causes snow and ice to retreat even further.
Accelerate the events of seasonal floods due to the melting of snow and snow avalanches.
The temperature will increase further as Ice and snow both have a high albedo. They contribute to the cooling of the earth by reflecting the majority of light without being absorbed.
Catastrophes Related to Cryosphere Loss
The global mean temperature is currently at 1.15 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial (1850-1900) levels.
Glaciers in the European Alps shrank between three and over four meters, breaking previous records.
Switzerland lost 6 percent of the glacier ice volume from 2021-2022, according to the Provisional State of the Global Climate in 2022 report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Most parts of east Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, “experienced four consecutive below-average rainfall seasons with severe humanitarian impact,”
The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) results in below-average sea surface temperatures at a western pole in the Arabian Sea and above-average sea surface at an eastern pole in the eastern Indian Ocean south of Indonesia. It is characterized by a difference in sea surface temperatures between the western and eastern Indian Oceans.
How to Manage the Loss of Cryosphere?
The best solution to avoid the crisis is limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But the global temperature is already 1.15°C above pre-industrial (1850-1900) levels.
The only way to arrest warming is an urgent and rapid reduction in global carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from every sector.
The need to make pre-2030 emissions reductions a matter of urgency is imperative for the benefit of all our societies.
Indian Antarctic Programme
The Indian Antarctic Programme was conceived in 1981 to provide a platform for scientific research. Indian Antarctic Programme was initiated under the Department of Ocean Development (DOD).
During its journey, three permanent Indian research bases, “Dakshin Gangotri-1983”, “Maitri-1988” and “Bharati-2012” have been built.
The objectives of the program are:
- Planning, coordination, and implementation of the Indian Antarctic Program.
- Launching of the Indian Scientific Expeditions to Antarctica.
- Maintenance of Indian Research bases in Antarctica.
- Initiation and continuation of the scientific programs in Antarctica in the fields of atmospheric sciences, climate change, earth science & glaciology, polar biology, and environmental science.
- Need to execute various Science projects with various expertise available in the country and also abroad.
- Establishment and maintenance of the National Polar Data Centre.
Indian Arctic Programme
The foundation of the Indian Arctic endeavors was laid in 2007. India is one of the most recent countries to commence Arctic research as it established its Arctic research station (named ‘Himadri’) in 2008.
India’s Arctic research includes atmospheric, biological, marine, and glaciological studies.
The objectives of this program are:
- Planning, coordination, and execution of scientific and logistics tasks related to Indian scientific studies in the Arctic.
- To carry out a comprehensive assessment of the flora and fauna of the Arctic vis-á-vis their response to anthropogenic activities.
- Expand Arctic observations and Science, to other regions of the Arctic.
All the scientific and logistic programs in multiple polar domains were amalgamated as a Central Sector umbrella scheme named “Polar Science and Cryosphere Research (PACER)”.
The Polar Science and Cryosphere Research (PACER) scheme comprises four elements that are the Antarctic program, the Indian Arctic program, the Southern Ocean program, and Cryosphere and Climate program. It is implemented successfully through the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
The major objectives of the scheme are:
- To ensure the country’s strategic and scientific interests in the Polar Region and the surrounding oceans.
- To continue the long-term frontline scientific programs in Antarctica, the Arctic, the Himalayas, and the Southern Ocean, which are pertinent to the national needs and have potential societal, strategic, and global relevance.
- Planning, coordination, and implementation of the annual Indian Antarctic, Arctic, Himalayan, and Southern Ocean expeditions.
- Maintenance of Indian Research bases in Antarctica, the Arctic, and the Himalayas.
- Establishment of state-of-the-art polar research and logistic facilities in the country.
Other Flagship Schemes
Other flagship schemes are:
The objective of the Ocean Science, Technology, Observations, Resources, modeling, and Services ( O-STORMS) scheme is to conduct front-ranking research to provide the best possible ocean services and develop relevant ocean technology.
Target Beneficiaries of the program are Fishermen, the offshore industry, the navy, the coast guard, and the coastal & island states.
The objective of Atmospheric and Climate Research, Observations Science Services (ACROSS) are:
- Provide weather and climate forecasts for different users like agriculture, aviation, water resources, power, tourism, transport, etc.
- Provide early warnings and alerts regarding cyclones, severe weather events, heavy rainfall, heat waves, etc.
- Development of relevant numerical weather prediction and climate models.
- Development of Earth System model for climate change scenarios.
Seismology and Geoscience Research (SAGE)
The objective of Seismology and Geoscience Research (SAGE) are:
- Provide information on earthquakes occurring over different parts of the world.
- Maintain the seismological network and upgradation.
- Carry out research in basic geosciences, and seismology.
The cryosphere needs to be protected through vigorous climate action, as this is not only a problem for mountain and polar countries; it is a worldwide issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
Article Written By: Priti Raj