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The Cryosphere raises a ‘Red flag’

Published: 1st Dec, 2022


A broad coalition of 18 governments led by the two polar and mountain nations of Chile and Iceland joined together at COP27 to create a new high-level group named ‘Ambition on Melting Ice on Sea-level Rise and Mountain Water Resources’ (AMI).


About the Coalition:

  • Objective: The ‘AMI’ group aims to ensure impacts of cryosphere loss are understood by political leaders and the public, not only within the mountain and Polar Regions but throughout the planet.
  • Key Points:
    • They indicated that Ice sheet loss in Greenland and parts of Antarctica is gathering pace and is largely irreversible. The resulting acceleration in sea level rise is a major threat to billions of people in coastal regions.
    • Glacier retreat in high mountain areas brings the risk of long-term water scarcity in densely populated parts of the world.
    • Impacts from cryosphere loss cause widespread impacts at higher levels of global warming.
    • Need of the Initiative:
  • In the face of mounting threats, greater international coordination is needed to develop plausible scenarios for future changes and their impacts.
    • It also translates global scientific knowledge into localized information that supports adaptation strategies for people and regions most at risk.
    • Climate change already has caused dramatic changes in the global cryosphere, and Earth’s snow and ice regions.
    • Severe impacts are already occurring in relation to water shortages from shrinking glaciers and snowpack; global sea-level rise due to loss of ice from ice sheets, glaciers, and ocean warming; and landslides triggered by permafrost thaw.
    • Lives and livelihoods are threatened by, and some already lost from, these changes

The Cryosphere Loss:

  • The cryosphere is the part of the Earth’s climate system that includes solid precipitation, snow, sea ice, lake and river ice, icebergs, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, ice shelves, permafrost, and seasonally frozen ground.
  • The term “cryosphere” traces its origins to the Greek word ‘kryos’ for frost or ice cold.
  • The cryosphere extends globally, existing seasonally or perennially at most latitudes, not just in the Arctic, Antarctic, and mountain regions, and in approximately one hundred countries.
  • The largest continental ice sheets are found in
  • Approximately 70% of the Earth’s freshwater exists as snow or ice.

Effect on Arctic and Antarctica:

  • Indigenous peoples in both the Arctic and mountain regions have been among the earliest affected.
  • Much of this acceleration is due to the melting of the ice sheets, rather than the thermal expansion of water, according to WMO’s provisional State of the Global Climate 2022 report.
  • Arctic sea-ice extentwas below the long-term (1981-2010) average for most of the year.
    • The September 2022 extent was 4.87 million km2 or 1.54 million km2below the long-term mean extent.
  • Antarctic sea-ice extent dropped to 1.92 million kmon 25 February, the lowest level on record and almost 1 million km2 below the long-term average.


  • To Small islands: Due to the frequent instances of ice melting and Sea-level rise have increased the risk of immersion of Small islands in the oceans near both Arctic and Antarctica.
  • To Eastern Antarctica Ice sheets: In Antarctica, the ice loss is currently largely confined to the West Antarctic ice sheet.
    • Due to warming more rapidly than the global average can accelerate sea level rise in East Antarctica which is by far the world’s biggest ice sheet, containing water that is the equivalent of around 50 meters.

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