The cryosphere is the part of the Earth's surface that is frozen for some part of the year. It includes snow, permanently frozen ground, ice on rivers and lakes, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets and sea ice.
For all of human history the cryosphere has defined the Arctic - a wintry world, temporarily or permanently covered with snow or ice. Much of the soil is frozen to the bedrock. During the year, some ice and snow melt or thaw, and water moves between different components of the cryosphere. But the Arctic cryosphere is changing. The rate of some of these changes is accelerating and the effects on Arctic landscapes will be profound.
This figure presents the elements of the Arctic cryosphere: glaciers and ice caps (Greenland icesheet), snow, sea ice, lake and river ice and permafrost