Links between the cryosphere and climate change are numerous.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) states that “over the last decades, global warming has led to widespread shrinking of the cryosphere, with mass loss from ice sheets and glaciers, reduction in snow cover, and Arctic Sea ice extent and thickness, and increased permafrost temperatures”.
Cryosphere data also plays a critical role in forecasting and prediction models.
Forecasting for snowfall, solid precipitation, snow cover, snowstorms, icing and river, lake, soil, and sea-ice freeze-up and break-up time is critical for people living in cold climate regions.
Sea level rise is a major concern for coastal regions, especially heavily populated zones, and is critical for a few small island nations. Although the volume equivalent of glaciers in terms of global sea level rise is small (0.4 m) compared to that of the ice sheets of Greenland (7.2 m) and Antarctica (about 58 m), their relative contribution to recent global sea level rise has been much larger. Melting of glaciers and ice caps in the second half of the 20th century led to about a 2.5 cm rise in sea level, in contrast to the loss of ice from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which added about 1 cm to sea level.
Cryosphere data is also important for flood forecasting and managing water resources for household use, hydropower production, agriculture (irrigation) and other sectors.