Cryosphere Working Group


The scientific scope of the Cryosphere Working Group shall include any scientific or engineering research relating to the Arctic and sub-Arctic cryosphere, including its interactions (past, present, and future) with the climate, oceans, and biosphere. It shall also include the promotion of sound practices for the management of scientific data relating to the Arctic cryosphere and its interactions with other components of the Arctic system.

The geographic scope of the Cryosphere Working Group shall be those areas of the Arctic and contiguous areas of the sub-Arctic where one or more element of the cryosphere (including the Greenland ice sheet, mountain glaciers, ice caps, icebergs, sea ice, snow cover and snowfall, permafrost and seasonally frozen ground, and lake- or river-ice) plays an important role in surface-climate interactions and/or the fresh water budget. It will normally include the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas (including the Baltic), Alaska, Canada’s northern Territories, Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard and the Russian Arctic archipelagos, and parts of Canada, Scandinavia, and northern Russia that lie polewards of the southern limit of discontinuous permafrost.

Contact: IASC Secretariat


Work Plan

Each Working Group has published a work plan to concisely articulate (with scientifically-driven high-level specifics, not programmatic detail) how they will achieve IASC’s vision over 5 years. These plans are meant to help Arctic scientists get involved in IASC activities, and it is expected that they will evolve in the coming years as the Working Groups continue with their work. The 2017-2022 Cryosphere Working Group Work Plan is available here.


Scientific Foci

(to be revised under the new leadership - ASSW2016)

  • Sea-ice boundary layer dynamics, particularly as they relate to biogeochemical exchanges and polar amplification.
  • Permafrost, including support of activities being undertaken by the International Permafrost Association.
  • Tidewater glacier dynamics and response to climate change, with a focus on methods for studying these issues. This activity is intended to have a large early career scientist and training component.


  • Linking microbial processes in permafrost to greenhouse gas fluxes in a changing climate – effects of site characteristics and permafrost state, properties of organic carbon, microbial community structure and function.
  • Impact of changing snow cover and permafrost characteristics on water and material fluxes (sediment, carbon, nutrient and pollutants) in Arctic rivers.
  • Response of tidewater glaciers to climate change in the Arctic – roles of ice-ocean interactions, terminus dynamics, and glacier hydrology; impacts of tidewater glacier change on regional scale mass balance.
  • Measuring and modeling snow cover, snow water equivalent and glacier mass balance across different scales – development and validation of approaches.
  • Interactions between the oceanic and atmospheric boundary layers across a broken sea ice cover – representation in models and role in polar amplification.
  • Impact of the change in Arctic sea ice regime (from multi-year to first year ice) on the mechanical and thermodynamic properties of the ice cover, and the role of these changes in ice properties in the long-term evolution of the ice cover.
  • The surface energy balance of the Arctic.
  • The future of the Arctic cryosphere.


Terms of Reference Cryosphere Working Group