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CliC Themes and Implementation Strategy

Print WCRP Inf No. 126; WMO/TD No. 1301 (Revision 1)


  1. The Terrestrial Cryosphere and Hydroclimatology of Cold Regions (TCHM)
  2. Ice Masses and Sea Level (IMSL)
  3. The Marine Cryosphere and Climate (MarC)
  4. Global Predictions of the Cryosphere (GPC)

Theme Summaries

1. The Terrestrial Cryosphere and Hydroclimatology of Cold Regions (TCHM)

  1. What are the magnitudes, patterns and rates of change in terrestrial cryosphere regimes on seasonal to century timescales? What are the associated changes in the water cycle?
  2. What is the role of terrestrial cryospheric processes in the spatial and temporal variability of the water, energy and carbon cycles of cold climate regions, and how can they be parameterized in models?
  3. What are the interactions and feedbacks between the terrestrial cryosphere and atmosphere/ocean systems and current climate? How variable are these interactions and how will they change in the future?

Outputs of this Theme will include:

  • Daily/monthly precipitation products for cold regions.
  • Establishment of CliC 'Super Study Sites' for process studies and model validation.
  • Advanced and validated remote sensing algorithms.
  • Improved radiative transfer and surface process models for cryospheric regions.
  • Enhanced information for water resource management.
  • Improved estimation of carbon emissions from permafrost and frozen ground regions.
  • Improved prediction of changes in the cryosphere that will have socio-economic impacts.

2. Ice Masses and Sea Level (IMSL)

  1. What is the contribution of glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets to changes in global sea level on decadal-to-century time scales?
  2. How can we reduce the uncertainty of these estimates?

Outputs of this Theme will include:

  • Improved ice sheet, ice cap and glacier monitoring system (including improved data management).
  • Mass balance records for a selection of representative glaciers and ice caps.
  • Better estimates of snowfall accumulation and melting/runoff on the large ice sheets.
  • Ice cores for climatic reconstruction from high elevation glaciers and ice caps.
  • Improved models of ice sheets, ice caps, and glaciers.
  • Inclusion of ice sheet models in global coupled climate models.
  • Improved estimates of past and future cryospheric contributions sea-level change.
  • Improved assessment of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet stability.

3. The Marine Cryosphere and Climate (MarC)

What will be the nature of changes in sea-ice distribution and mass balance in both polar regions in response to climate change and variability?

  1. What are the present mean states, natural variability, and recent trends in sea-ice characteristics in both hemispheres, and what are the physical processes that determine these?
  2. How will sea ice respond in future to a changing climate; e.g., will the Arctic Ocean be ice free in summer?
  3. How will a changing sea-ice cover affect climate through its interactions with the atmosphere and ocean?
  4. How do processes of ice-ocean interaction - including basal melt and marine ice accretion - affect the mass balance and stability of ice shelves?
  5. What is the role of the seasonal production of sea ice in the neighbourhood of ice shelves in driving currents beneath the shelves and thereby influencing basal melting and re-freeaing?
  6. What is the distribution and variability of fresh water input to the oceans from ice shelves, icebergs and ice sheet runoff, and what role does this have on ocean circulation (e.g., maintenance of global thermohaline circulation)?

Outputs of this Theme will include:

  • Observational data sets and re-analyses of oceanographic and sea-ice quantities.
  • Reduced uncertainties regarding past variability and trends in sea-ice coverage.
  • Improved understanding of water mass transformation in polar regions.
  • Improved model predictions of future changes to sea-ice cover in both hemispheres.

4. Global Predictions and the Cryosphere (GPC)

  1. What will be the impact of changes in the cryosphere on the atmospheric and oceanic circulation?
  2. What is the likelihood of abrupt climate changes resulting from regime changes in the cryosphere and their effect on global circulation?

Outputs of this Theme will include:

  • Improved regional and global models of high latitude climate.
  • Improved knowledge of cryosphere-related feedbacks to the rest of the climate system.
  • Understanding of the cryospheric processes that underlie global tele-connectivity in climate.
  • Determination of the pathways of moisture transport that control the mass balance of ice sheets.
  • Better knowledge of abrupt climate changes associated with impacts of the cryosphere on the rest of the global climate system.
  • Clearer view on the role of cryosphere in global water, energy and carbon cycles.