EarthLabs > Climate and the Cryosphere > Lab 1: Getting to Know the Cryosphere > 1A: Introduction to the Cryosphere

Getting to Know the Cryosphere

Part A: Introduction to the Cryosphere

What is the Cryosphere?

Scientists use the word cryosphere to describe the set of all locations on Earth where water is found in solid form, including areas of snow, sea ice, glaciers, permafrost, ice sheets and icebergs. Like other Earth systems, the cryosphere is constantly changing as snow and ice go through cycles of growth and melt and get pushed around by wind, ocean currents, and other dynamicdynamic: relating to energy and physical forces or to objects in motion. forces.

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.


Checking In

  1. Which of the following is NOT part of the cryosphere?
    [INCORRECT]
    [INCORRECT]
    [CORRECT] Correct! Even though they may contain tiny ice crystals, clouds are considered to be part of the atmosphere, not part of the cryosphere.
    [INCORRECT]
    [INCORRECT]
    [INCORRECT]
  2. Glacier ice is made of:
    [INCORRECT]
    [INCORRECT]
    [CORRECT]
  3. How much of the world's fresh water is stored in ice caps and glaciers?
    [INCORRECT]
    [CORRECT]
    [INCORRECT]
    [INCORRECT]
    [INCORRECT]
  4. True or False? Frozen ground contains water and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane, which could potentially affect climate if temperatures warm and permafrost thaws.
    [CORRECT]
    [INCORRECT]

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.

  1. Print and cut out the map along its edges. Tape the edges together to form a "globe."
  2. Rotate your globe so the north pole is on top. Find the United States to help get a sense of where things are.
  3. 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.




Checking In

  1. What parts of the cryosphere are found only near the poles? Choose all that apply.
    [INCORRECT]text
    [INCORRECT]
    [INCORRECT]
    [CORRECT]
    [INCORRECT]
    [INCORRECT]
  2. On December 26, 2000, there were reports of ten to twenty inches of snow across the Texas panhandle, including nearly twenty inches in the city of Amarillo. Why doesn't the map show snow in Texas?
    [INCORRECT]
    [CORRECT]
    [INCORRECT]
    [INCORRECT]
  

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