Hydrosphere and cryosphere

This material was originally created for Starting Point:Introductory Geology
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.

  • Factors Affecting the Diurnal Cycle: Clouds and Moisture. This undergraduate meteorology tutorial is one in a series explaining how and why the temperature rises and falls at the surface of the Earth. It discusses the effect on surface temperatures of soil type, surface moisture, and clouds or fog. (more info)
  • Ground Water Atlas of the United States. This United States Geological Survey (USGS) series of print publications describes the location, the extent, and the geologic and hydrologic characteristics of the important aquifers in the United States. Following an Atlas Introduction and Summary, each of 13 chapters describes the principle aquifer(s) of a given region, beginning with an overview of climate, hydrogeology, physiography, and water budget statistics. The actual aquifer descriptions that follow are linked to numerous maps and supplementary cross sections, block diagrams, charts, graphs and photographs. The maps depict aquifer location and extent, thickness, potentiometric surface, general water chemistry, flow-system and movement, human usage, and where data are available - changes in aquifer water levels and/or water chemistry over time. Correlation charts list the geologic formations that compose the aquifer, while hydrogeologic sections describe the potential uses and concerns associated with various aquifers based on their formation and chemical history. Hydrographs show fluctuations in aquifer water levels. The block diagrams and cross sections describe positional relationships between aquifers. Photographs are used to show special hydrogeologic conditions or the results of aquifer development. Lastly for each region, special conditions caused by human activities are discussed and followed by an extensive reference list. In addition to the regional chapters, Aquifer Basics (accessed from the Archives page) provides background information on aquifer types (e.g., unconsolidated-deposit, semiconsolidated deposit, sandstone, carbonate-rock, sandstone and carbonate, or volcanic) and provides direct links (by name) to principal aquifers that exemplify each type. Finally, links from this page lead to the National Atlas Aquifers map and related materials, while links from the main page connect to main USGS sites for water resources and ground water information. (more info)
  • How NASA Studies Water. Part of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) For Kids Only complex of K-12 educational websites, How NASA Studies Water is a portal to satellite monitoring information about the global water cycle. The site links to three special projects/missions that deal specifically with water: SeaWiFS, Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), and El Nino. The Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) Project provides Earth scientists with information about the ocean's fertility. The TRMM satellite measures how much rain is falling at any given time around the tropics so that scientists can better predict weather patterns. NASA scientists takes part in a number of international projects aimed at better understanding the causes and effects of El Nino, an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific. El Nino, Making Sense of the Weather explains the damages and changes that El Nino causes in the weather in language geared to students in grades 6-12. (more info)
  • MMAB Sea Ice Analysis Page. This is the sea ice analysis page of the Marine Modeling and Analysis Branch (MMAB) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Users can access images of sea ice extent that can be animated to show the previous 30 days activity. Images are available for the entire globe, the Northern Hemisphere (Alsaka, Sea of Okhotsk, and Sea of Japan), and the Southern Hemisphere (Weddell Polynya Watch, Ross Sea and Amery Basin). Information on sea ice modelling and forecasts is also accessible. ( This site may be offline. )
  • National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) is an information and referral center supporting polar and cryospheric research. Through its Data Catalog, NSIDC archives and distributes digital and analog data on snow cover, avalanches, glaciers, ice sheets, freshwater ice, sea ice, ground ice, permafrost, atmospheric ice, paleoglaciology, and ice cores. Users may browse their entire data collection by subject or by title. (Users may also browse portions of NSIDC's Data Catalog by project name, collection method, or funding agency.) Beyond their data holdings, the Center also offers data management services for a number of scientific agencies and programs, provides data products (targeted for the science research community), publishes three periodicals, maintains a collection of monographs, technical reports, and journals, and compiles education resources and links for teachers and students. Educational resources include: Arctic Climatology and Meteorology Primer, State of the Cryosphere, Snow on the Web, All About Glaciers, Avalanche Awareness, Ice shelves and icebergs, a mapping and gridding primer, and COLDLinks, a list of links to external polar and cryospheric educational resources. NSIDC plays integral roles in numerous national and international projects for which cryospheric data are collected and distributed. NSIDC itself is part of the University of Colorado Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and is affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) through a cooperative agreement. (more info)
  • Surface Water and Groundwater. This site contains 25 questions on the topic of surface water and groundwater, which covers rivers and aquifers. This is part of the Principles of Earth Science course at the University of South Dakota. Users submit their answers and are provided immediate verification. ( This site may be offline. )
  • The Missoula Floods. This broadcast transcript offers an in-depth tutorial on the Missoula Floods. Between 13 and 15 thousand years ago, a huge lake (glacial Lake Missoula) created by a dam of glacial ice covered a large area of what is now western Montana. When the water cut underneath the glacial wall and the dam of ice collapsed, floods over 400 feet deep and traveling at over 90 miles per hour raced from Montana to the Pacific Ocean. The floods destroyed everything in their path, moved mountains, transported the rich soil of Eastern Washington to the Willamette Valley, and left behind gigantic channels, cataracts, and ripple marks. These features form the landscape that is now known as the Channeled Scablands. Links to a glossary are embedded in the text, and a list of related websites is also provided. ( This site is likely no longer available. )
  • The World Glacier Inventory. This web site is part of the National Snow and Ice Data Center's World Glacier Monitoring Service. The World Glacier Inventory contains information for over 67,000 glaciers throughout the world. Parameters within the inventory include: geographic location, area, length, orientation, elevation, and classification of morphological type and moraines. The inventory entries are based upon a single observation in time and can be viewed as a "snapshot" of the glacier at this time. These data are collected and digitized by the World Glacier Monitoring Service, Zurich. A point and click map of the world will also take users to the region of interest with a list of glaciated areas. (more info)
  • Water Quality. This site houses a module on Water Quality. The module is designed to be informative and interactive. Students are presented with a simulated situation where their newest client, who owns a catch and release fishing guide service, is upset over the fact that the fish in a stretch of "Bear Creek" have been dying. The client has called on the student's firm to figure out what is killing the fish in that section of Bear Creek, and how to stop it. Preliminary fieldwork has been done on Bear Creek and is available for the student's analysis. The biological, chemical, and physical data for this watershed are realistic values based on data found in similar situations. The data are listed in tables, and are also available to the students for download into a spreadsheet. Guided lectures on the hydrosphere, water pollution, and water quality assessment are provided, as well as a link to another module on a real watershed. For additional aides, a site glossary, reference information, a listing of related links, and a model outline of the steps to follow for the Problem Based Learning (PBL) situation are given. As this module is part of the online series of Exploring the Environment (ETE), teachers interested in using this site will have to register for a free password in order to gain access to the Teacher's Pages. This can be done through the ETE's homepage, http://www.cotf.edu/ete/. ( This site is likely no longer available. )