The frozen parts of our planet, the snow and ice covers that the land and the sea, and the frozen earth itself form the cryosphere. The name comes from the Greek word, “krios,” which means cold. These frozen worlds play an important role in the global climate system, but the cryosphere is vulnerable to change.
By studying key cryospheric components (sea ice, ice sheets, mountain glaciers) in both polar regions and High Mountain Asia we aim to provide improved understanding of the processes that lead to cryospheric changes. For decades we have developed innovative technologies, collaborated with leading research teams around the world to drive forward a deeper understanding of the changes we observe.
Change in the polar regions is expected to continue. Since 1979, summer sea-ice extent in the Arctic has reduced at 10% per decade; while in the Antarctic rapid, contrasting regional changes in sea-ice are occurring. Major glaciers that drain the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have accelerated by as much as 50% and are now important contributors to global sea-level rise. The rapidity of these changes means that most of the Arctic, and part of the Antarctic, are seen as “hotspots” of global change.
There is an urgency for the UK and international polar research community to understand the rate and magnitude of changes likely to occur; their impact on people around the globe; and to develop robust predictions. We aim to identify thresholds that, once exceeded, will lead to irreversible impacts, and feedbacks that will magnify or limit change.
- clarification of the potential for collapse of marine ice sheets
- major advances in understanding the role of oceans in driving ice-loss from the Antarctic Peninsula and West Antarctic ice sheet
- the attribution of ice-sheet change, and its contribution to global sea-level rise, to anthropogenic influence, and in particular to atmospheric circulation in the tropics
- improved understanding of the regional patterns of sea ice change in the Arctic and Antarctica
- improved understanding of the influence geology exerts on ice-sheet morphology
Cryosphere research projects
Our multidisplinary teams work on a range of programmes and projects including: