Cryospheric Sciences

News and Events

The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) will host the Program for Arctic Regional Climate Assessment (PARCA) and NASA-ESA Snow On Sea Ice (NESOSI) meetings on Thursday, February 20, 2020. These meetings will be held in conjunction with the Operation IceBridge Science Team and ICESat-2 for Newcomers meetings, which will take place on February 21, 2020.

In spring of 2019, Earth to Sky's co-lead Anita Davis received an inquiry from Glacier Bay National Park (GLBA) rangers for new information about the changing glaciers in the park. Anita contacted Dr. Christopher Shuman (UMBC JCET), a scientist working at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Cryospheric Sciences Lab for any updates that might be provided. In turn, Dr Shuman undertook development of a 1972-2018 Landsat imagery time series depicting changes to glaciers in the park.

Ice fronts have retreated, rocky peaks are more exposed, fewer icebergs drift to the ocean: the branching network of glaciers that empty into Greenland’s Sermilik Fjord has changed significantly in the last half century. Comparing Landsat images from 1972 and 2019, those changes and more come into view.


The mission of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory is to advance our understanding of Earth’s cryosphere and its relationship to other elements of the global climate system.


Cryospheric Sciences is a part of Hydrospheric, Biospheric, and Geophysics Sciences located at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. We are an international group, from students to senior scientists, with diverse backgrounds in geophysics, computer science, geology, physics, math, geography, and engineering. Our scientists use in-situ and remote observations and modeling techniques to study the cryosphere and interactions with other parts of the Earth system.

The cryosphere encompasses components of the Earth that contain water in its frozen state: ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers, sea ice, snow, lake ice and permafrost. While these components exist at many locations on Earth, they are most abundant in the polar regions. We collaborate with other GSFC groups such as Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, Geodesy and Geophysics, and Hydrology Labs to understand the role of the cryosphere in the global climate. Observations and models of global climate indicate that the cryosphere is highly sensitive to climate change. Consequently, advancing our understanding of the past, present and future of the cryosphere is essential to our advancing understanding of the Earth as a whole.

The Broad Goals of the Cryospheric Sciences

  • Measuring and understanding the mass balance of land ice, and its implications for sea-level rise,
  • Monitoring and understanding important cryospheric processes, such as changes in sea ice and snow cover and their relationships with other parts of the climate system,
  • Improving the representation of cryospheric processes in climate models.