Cryospheric Science and Sustainable Development

Cryospheric science, as a new interdiscipline with deep intersection of nature and humanity, aims to understand the laws of nature, serve human society, and promote sustainable development. The cryosphere has been shrinking rapidly in recent decades with global warming, which will affect not only the natural system, but also the humanity, economy, society and even the geostrategic pattern of the world. How to deal with natural and social problems, and how to embody the concept of "a Community of Shared Future for Mankind" are required to be studied in cryospheric science.

General Overview


Establishment and Significance of the Scientific System of Cryospheric Science

  • The cryosphere is one of the five major spheres of the climate system, and the earth's terrestrial cryosphere covers 52%–55% of the global land area. In the cryosphere, 75% of freshwater resources on the earth are stored, among which glaciers and ice sheets account for about 70%. The retreat of the cryosphere will change the geostrategic pattern of the world. The core area of the cryosphere may become the strategic highland of the competition of interests between great powers, or a new field of global cooperation.

    QIN Dahe; YAO Tandong; DING Yongjian; REN Jiawen

Subject Construction


Cryospheric Climatology: Emerging Branch of Cryospheric Science

  • Cryosphere, as a product of climate, is very sensitive to temperature and precipitation. The climate conditions determine the life span and elements of cryosphere. We will continue to deepen the understanding of interaction process and mechanism between the cryosphere and the atmosphere, and promote the development of parameterization schemes for the processes of terrestrial cryosphere, marine cryosphere, and atmospheric cryosphere towards refinement, quantification, and complexity. In particular, we will focus on considering the spatial-temporal scales of nonlinear effects among different components and elements of the cryosphere. The development of global and regional climate system model coupled with cryosphere processes is the future trend of cryospheric climatology.

    LUO Yong; QIN Dahe; ZHAI Panmao; MA Lijuan; ZHOU Botao; XU Xinwu


Cryospheric Hydrology: Decode the Largest Freshwater Reservoir on Earth

  • The hydrological processes have significantly changed under the background of climate change. The onset of glacier melting period starts earlier and the volume of melting water increases. The snow melting period starts earlier, and the permafrost degradation has led to winter runoff increasing, which increases the regulation function of watershed runoff. The projected glacier meltwater will continuingly decrease under future climate change, which will bring a greater challenge to the water resource management of Northwest China.

    DING Yongjian; ZHANG Shiqiang; CHEN Rensheng


Cryosphere Ecosystems: Outpost and Barrier in Global Change

  • The cryosphere is the most sensitive sphere of climate system. Due to climate warming, the ice amount of all cryospheric elements generally in a deficit state, and the energy exchange in phase change leads to the change of material and energy cycle, which results in the changes of various kinds of ecosystems from habitat, composition structure, food web, and distribution pattern. Climate warming has a deeper and wider impact on ecosystems than on other regions.

    WANG Genxu; YANG Yan; ZHANG Guangtao; CHANG Ruiying


Microbes in Cryosphere: Opportunities and Challenges

  • Cryosphere is considered to be an environment similar to Mars, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto and Himalia on the earth, and clues about microbes in cryosphere are expected to inspire the exploration of extraterrestrial life. The cryosphere is changing as indicated by the retreat of glaciers and ice sheets as well as permafrost thawing under global warming. The habitats where the microbes of cryosphere survive on are shrinking. The release of these microbes from the cryosphere might be a great threat to human society.

    CHEN Tuo; ZHANG Wei; LIU Guangxiu; LI Shiweng


Cryosphere Engineering Science Supporting Interactivity Infrastructures Construction

  • Climate and environmental change will become an important factor to be considered in the construction, safe operation, and serviceability of engineering in the regions of cryosphere in the future. At the same time, the Belt and Road infrastructure construction not only brings opportunities to cryosphere engineering, but also faces greater challenges.

    WU Qingbai; LI Zhijun; SHEN Yongping


New Perspective of Research on Cryospheric Physics

  • Ice is the core material in cryosphere. The physical properties as well as physical processes of cryospheric components vary obviously because of differences in ice proportion and other material composition. With the rapid changes of cryosphere in the context of climate warming, the risk and influence of frequent cryosphere disasters are becoming increasingly serious.

    REN Jiawen


Cryospheric Chemistry: Fingerprint to Decipher climatic/environmental Changes and Anthropogenic Activities

  • In the 1980s, scientists put forward the concept of global change, gradually bringing the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere and anthroposphere into the category of this concept, and highlighting the multi-sphere interaction and environmental change of the earth. Cryosphere is the most sensitive sphere in the climate system and an amplifier of global change. With the main distribution in polar and alpine regions, cryosphere is rarely affected by local anthropogenic activities. Therefore, cryospheric chemistry, as fingerprint, can reflect the climatic/environmental changes on the regional and even global scale, which may reveal the evolution process of different climatic and environmental factors.

    KANG Shichang; HUANG Jie; MU Cuicui; ZHANG Yulan; XU Jianzhong; DONG Zhiwen; DU Wentao


Study on Climatic and Environmental Changes Recorded in Ice Cores: From Science to Policy

  • Ice core is a natural archive of the climatic and environmental changes. However, with the further global warming, mountain glaciers will gradually die out, and the ablation of polar ice sheets will also show an increasing trend. This means that there is a great risk that the natural archive of ice core will “melt and disappear.” For the sake of better understanding the changes of the environment where we live, it is imperative to save the ice core, and the western countries have taken the lead. Today, with the aggravation of global warming and the accelerated extinction of glaciers, it is necessary to save the ice core resources as soon as possible and establish National Ice Core Facility of China to serve the national development and future scientific research.

    YAO Tandong;QIN Dahe;WANG Ninglian;LIU Yongqin;XU Baiqing


Quaternary Cryosphere — Study on Global Change in Long Terms

  • The Quaternary is marked by the Great Ice Age. The basic characteristics of this great ice age are the alternating of glacial-interglacial period in orbital scale and changes of stadial-interstadial in suborbital scale. Present is a relatively warm interglacial period, with glaciers covering only 10% of the land area. The glacial maximum was characterized by the coverage of about 30% by glaciers on the global land area. After the Industrial Revolution, human development has been profoundly affecting the natural process of the Earth, leading to global warming, heralding the arrival of the Anthropocene.

    ZHOU Shangzhe; ZHAO Jingdong; WANG Jie; XU Liubing; CUI Jianxin;
    OU Xianjiao; XIE Jinming


Developing Cryospheric Remote Sensing, Promoting Scientific Programme of Earth's
Three Poles

  • The Antarctic, the Arctic, and the Asian alpine region mainly represented by the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are deemed as the “Earth’s three poles” and are also the core distribution area of the global cryosphere. In addition to the most freshwater resources, they are also rich in oil and gas resources. Thus, they are potential strategic reserve areas of global resource and energy development and are of special significance to the future development, national interests, and security strategy of China. Meanwhile, the “Earth’s three poles” are the regions most obviously affected by global warming, the typical areas of multi-layer interaction in the global climate system, and also the key and sensitive areas affecting global climate and environmental changes. They play important roles in global energy and water cycle.

    CHE Tao; LI Xin; LI Xinwu; JIANG Liming


Ice World Beyond Earth—Brief Introduction to Planetary Cryosphere

  • The cryosphere of habitable exoplanets has been a hot spot in the research of exoplanet habitability. At present, most of the potentially habitable planets that have been discovered are tidally locked planets. The development of cryosphere on the night side will directly affect the existence of liquid water on the sunny side and thus the habitability of these planets. The next-generation space telescopes will be used to observe the cryosphere of habitable planets, and we expect that there will be more exciting scientific discoveries.

    HU Yongyun; YANG Jun; WEI Qiang

S&T and Society


Key Viewpoint of Cryospheric Human-sociology: Function and Service

  • In recent decades, with climate warming and under the promotion of sustainable development, the cryospheric science has developed rapidly and its scientific connotation has been continuously enriched; the research scope covers the formation, evolution and internal mechanism of cryospheric elements, as well as the interaction between the cryosphere and other spheres of the climate system, but expands to the interdisciplinary areas of science and humanities studying the impact and adaptation of the cryosphere on human society.

    XIAO Cunde; WANG Xiaoming; SU Bo


Characteristics, Influence of Cryosphere Disaster and Prospect of Discipline Development

  • The cryosphere regions are mainly remote alpine regions and underdeveloped regions with a high proportion of the poor, who are unable to withstand natural disasters. Therefore, cryosphere disasters have become a major challenge in poverty eradication, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and sustainable economic and social development.

    WANG Shijin; WEN Jiahong

Recommended Journal


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