Cryospheric Sciences is a part of Hydrospheric, Biospheric, and Geophysics Sciences located at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The cryosphere is the component of the Earth System that contains water in its frozen state. This includes glaciers, snow, lake ice, sea ice, ice caps, ice sheets and permafrost. While these elements of the cryosphere exist at many locations on Earth, they are in greatest abundance in the polar regions. The mission of Cryospheric Sciences is to increase our understanding of the ice cover and its connection to the rest of the climate systems. History and projections of global climate suggest that the high-latitude ice-covered regions of the Earth, particularly the Arctic, have high sensitivity to climate change. Among the reasons for this sensitivity is the positive albedo feedback associated with the warming/cooling and melting/formation of snow and ice. Other factors include the changes in thermohaline circulation and energy exchanges associated with the formation and melting of sea ice. Consequently, an understanding of the Earth's ice cover and its connections to the rest of the climate systems, is essential to understanding the past, present, and future behavior of the Earth system as a whole.

The Broad Goals of the Cryospheric Sciences

  • Measuring and understanding the mass balance of land ice, and its implications for sea level rise,
  • Monitoring and understanding important cryospheric processes, such as changes in sea ice and snow cover and their relationships with other parts of the climate system,
  • Improving the representation of cryospheric processes in climate models.