Getting to Know the Cryosphere
Part A: Introduction to the Cryosphere
What is the Cryosphere?
This unit will focus primarily on sea ice (frozen ocean water) and what
we will call "land ice" (glaciers, ice shelves, and icebergs). Visit
the National Snow and Ice Data Center's (NSIDC) All About the
Cryosphere page to learn about the components that make up the
cryosphere. Then, answer the Checking In questions below.
Where is the Cryosphere?
Now that you know what the cryosphere is, let's take a look at a map of the cryosphere and think more about where the cryosphere is. This map is probably a little different than other maps your are used to, so let's take some time to study it carefully to figure out what it's telling us.
- Print and cut out the map along its edges. Tape the edges together to form a "globe."
- Rotate your globe so the north pole is on top. Find the United States to help get a sense of where things are.
- Use the map legend to locate each of the different components of the cryosphere (snow, sea ice, glaciers, etc.). Then answer the questions below.
In the map below, snow cover in the northern hemisphere is the 1966–2005 average for the month of February and the snow cover in the southern hemisphere is the 1987–2003 average for the month of August. Sea ice coverage in the northern hemisphere is the 1979–2003 average for the month of March and sea ice coverage in the southern hemisphere is the 1979–2002 average for the month of September. Permafrost data for mountain areas and for the southern hemisphere are not shown in this map, and neither are river and lake ice. Study the map carefully. Then, answer the Checking In questions.