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    September 06, 2011 | 3:27 PM

    Climate change: It's got us singing the "cryosphere blues"

    Source: NASA ICE

    Ice in Greenland has been getting a fair share of attention lately. Researchers from the University of Sheffield just announced that the Mittivakkat Glacier lost a record amount of ice this year. And the San Francisco Chronicle recently featured an article on disappearing sea ice and its effects on Greenlanders.

    I'll leave it to you to explore each of these stories on Greenland's case of the "cryosphere blues" in more detail. As you read them though, keep in mind that these articles focus on two totally different kinds of ice: glacial ice and sea ice.

    Sea ice, as the National Snow and Ice Data Center puts it, "is simply frozen ocean water. It forms, grows and melts in the ocean." Glaciers, on the other hand, form on land when snow builds up and is compacted into ice. (Icebergs are tricky -- they originate from glaciers, but break off and float in the ocean like sea ice!)

    Both of these types of ice are important from a global warming perspective. Because they're a brilliant white, glacial ice and sea ice help keep the earth cool by reflecting some of the sun's rays. With less ice, the world will warm more rapidly.

    When it comes to sea level rise though, glaciers -- rather than sea ice -- are what matter. Sea level isn't affected much when ice that's already floating in the ocean melts. But when glaciers melt, water that's been stored atop land in ice for thousands of years flows into the sea. Glacial melt has accounted for about half of global sea level rise in recent decades. (The other half of sea level rise comes from "thermal expansion" -- the expansion of water when it's warm.)

    From where I sit in D.C., I can't witness the direct impacts that climate change is having on Arctic ice, like Greenlanders can. But even those of us far removed from icy land and seascapes are not immune to our own cases of "the cryosphere blues." We'll all be able to feel global temperatures rise as ice disappears. And we who live near coasts, and especially citizens of small island nations, are vulnerable to sea level rise caused by glacial melt.

    Luckily, though, science shows us there's a cure to the "cryosphere blues." Reducing carbon pollution can help slow the warming of our planet, and therefore the melting of its ice. What actions are you taking to cut carbon pollution? Leave a comment and let us know.

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