How does the Cryosphere affect global climate?

The cryosphere is the frozen earth’s surface, where water is found in solid form i.e. sea ice, lake ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice sheets, and frozen ground. It is usually found in Antarctica, Arctic, and mountainous regions.

The cryosphere affect the global climate in the following way

Reflecting sheet: The cryosphere acts like a heat reflecting sheet and thus influences the heating and cooling system of Earth. The system eventually controls air temperatures, ocean currents, sea levels, and storm patterns.

Carbon sink: The polar region has the ability to capture tonnes of carbon inside its soil. And when the ice melts, it releases Methane (Greenhouse Gas), which is responsible for absorbing Sun’s heat and causes global warming.

Heat exchanger: The conversion of seawater into seawater causes highly dense and saltier surrounding water that initiates thermohaline circulation patterns across the oceans of the world. It acts as a natural heat exchanging phenomenon. It transports warm water from the equator to the poles and cold water from the poles back to the equatorial area, which directly influences climatic incidents like the El-Nino La-Nina effect.

Cascading effect: Rising sea level creates a cascade of effects which includes higher temperatures, sea-level rise, heavy rainfall, heat stress, and inundation damage.

Water cycle: The volume of water gets increased due to the melting of sea ice, glaciers. And the changes in the water cycle affect global energy and global climate.

Just a little change in the cryosphere can influence climate changes and also dramatically alter the Earth’s snow and ice-covered areas. With nearly 70% of Earth’s freshwater stored in glaciers and ice caps, we must protect the cryosphere to save the biosphere.

Question for UPSC Mains:
How does the Cryosphere affect global climate? (150 words)

Published: October 30, 2017 | Modified:August 16, 2020