The Disappearing Cryosphere: Processes, causes and implications.
The LTER Network Decadal Planning process has identified Cryosphere loss as one focus area for development and potential research support over the next few years. With LNO support, we held a Cross-Site Workshop in Woods Hole in April to explore the geophysical, ecological, biogeochemical and socioecological dimensions of declining glacier, permafrost, snow, sea, lake and river ice.
The Earth’s Cryosphere – water in its solid phase including glaciers, sea, lake and river ice, snow and permafrost – harbors 82% of the freshwater on the planet. The Cryosphere cools the planet, regulates the global sea level, insulates soil from subfreezing air temperatures and most importantly, serves as a seasonally-rectified water supply for human consumption, irrigation, nutrient transport and cycling, freshwater resources, and waste disposal. Cryosphere loss imposes enormous threats to these ecosystem services, with potential cost to the world economy in the trillions of USD. A one meter sea level rise, projected over the 21st century, alone represents an estimated economic impact of $1 Trillion.
The extent and rates of cryosphere loss are increasingly well-monitored and our ability to project future rates of geophysical decline is improving. However the ecological consequences and especially the nature, extent and economic impacts on human society and institutions are still poorly understood. Building on the LTER ISSE framework, we propose an LTER Network-wide effort to investigate the socioecological consequences of cryosphere loss, with a focus on economic assessment of the loss of ecosystem services.
We propose a half-day (2 session) workshop on this topic. The workshop would include contributed presentations and discussion and planning. The main objective for the discussion and planning sessions would be to further elaborate the brief prospectus we started at the Science Council meeting in La Jolla in May (available on request from session chairs).