IGOS Cryosphere Theme


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Theme Report



The Cryosphere Theme promotes a cryosphere observing system, CryOS, that includes more than simply measurements of snow and ice properties. It must have all of the following five components: satellite remote sensing instruments, networks of ground-based instrumentation, aircraft-based measurements, modelling, assimilation, and reanalysis systems, and a data management system.

Satellite instruments are essential for delivering sustained, consistent observations of the global cryosphere. No one all-encompassing sensor exists; rather, the combination and synthesis of data from different yet complementary sensors is essential, and underlines the critical importance of maintaining key synergetic elements of the system. Equally important are surface and airborne observations, in that they provide key data that cannot currently be measured from space, more detailed information in critical areas, and observations with which to calibrate and validate satellite retrievals. Satellites in turn are a key to extending local in situ measurements. CryOS needs to foster the evaluation of the cryosphere in models, to disentangle the role of the cryosphere in climate and its predictability as simulated by climate models, and to stimulate improvements in the parameterization of cryospheric processes. The data and information management component must facilitate the flow of data and information in cryospheric research, long-term scientific monitoring, and operational monitoring. However, it must go beyond the traditional metadata service or web portal by encouraging the development of tools to combine all types of data, including model fields, from diverse and distributed data centers.

The implementation of CryOS, the IGOS Cryospheric Observing System, should be phased to take place over three time intervals:

  • Phase 1: 2007-2009
  • Phase 2: 2010-2015
  • Phase 3: Beyond 2015

The initial two-year near-term phase 2007-2009 corresponds to the IPY period. The CryOS recommendations will be made widely known to the IPY project community through the IPY ICSU/WMO Joint Committee and the IPY Subcommittees on Observations, Data, Education and Outreach. The IPY community will be requested to follow the recommendations to the extent possible. Some of the approved IPY projects, like GIIPSY, Polar CEOP, CASO, iAOOS, and Arctic-HYDRA, will start implementing the recommendations directly. This period should allow testing of the infrastructure elements contributing specifically to observations of the high latitude polar regions. It will facilitate reviews of progress, identification of observational gaps, and plans for the deployment of appropriate infrastructure.

Phase 2 will focus on activities required to preserve the legacy of the IPY observing, data and information management system, to address the weaknesses detected in the high-latitude observing system, to expand the system to the global cryosphere, and to realize plans or concepts for space observing systems for the cryosphere. This intermediate phase corresponds in time to the life of large-scale funding instruments such as the European UnionŐs 7th Framework Programme, and defines the interval over which scientific activities will be focused. Most of the satellite missions during this period are already known, and CryOS will focus on ensuring better coordination of the missions and their outcomes.

During Phase 3, beyond 2015, we would expect plans to be developed and realized for the operationalization of CryOS. It is hoped that during Phases 1 and 2, space agencies will have developed mission plans that can be implemented in Phase 3 to fill key observational gaps, and along with plans for routine operational observations of such essential parameters as solid precipitation and/or snow water equivalent.

See the Cryosphere Theme Report for more information on implementation.