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© Global Warming Images / WWF
Oceans and Cryosphere
IPCC Special report

The cryosphere is made up of all the places on our planet that get so cold, water regularly turns to snow or ice. A new report finds that our cryosphere is melting at an unprecedented pace, with global impacts.

Temperature increases are causing Arctic sea ice to disappear at an unprecedented rate. We have not lost this much sea ice in at least the last 1000 years.

The IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) outlines how the changing ocean and frozen world will impact natural and human systems.

Although the assessment paints a stark picture, the actions we take to mitigate carbon emissions now can still mitigate some risk.

What does cryosphere melt mean for people?

© Global Warming Images / WWF
Unpredictable and extreme weather
Sea ice loss in the polar regions will potentially influence weather patterns further south on a weekly or monthly basis, contributing to much more unpredictable weather. Low-lying megacities and small islands around the world will experience extreme events related to sea level rise, like tropical cyclones and extreme flooding every year by 2050.
© Tom Vierus / WWF-UK
Sea level rise
The melting of polar glaciers and ice sheets is now the largest contributor to global sea level rise. Global sea level rise is now 2.5 times faster than it was in the last century.
© Chris Linder / WWF-US
Arctic communities hit hardest
Communities around the Arctic are losing fresh water and food sources, vital infrastructure, economic livelihoods and their cultural identity.
© Chris Linder / WWF-US
Accelerated climate change
The melting Arctic is part of a feedback loop worsening climate impacts. Permafrost thaw is expected to release billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and accelerate climate change.

Cryosphere melt and wildlife

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Polar bears are spending more time swimming in the ocean. On Svalbard, just two generations earlier, their grandparents would have been walking on the sea ice.
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Increased mortality of walrus calves has been observed as mothers and calves are forced to use large, crowded coastal haul-outs due to earlier sea ice retreat.
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Later sea ice freeze-up could delay or prevent caribou – including mothers with young calves – from reaching their winter foraging grounds and will result in mortality of caribou as they attempt to cross thin ice.
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Older sea ice acts as a buffer for underwater noise from shipping, seismic survey and construction, allowing Arctic whales to use echolocation and songs to find one another, their prey and their way through the ocean.

How you can help

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