PROGRAM TITLE:	Cold Regions Research
ACTIVITY STREAMS:	Observations/Data Mgmt., Process
SCIENCE ELEMENTS:	Climate/Hydrologic Systems, Biogeochemical 
Dynamics, Solid Earth Processes
 
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

DESCRIPTION:  The Cold Regions Program includes studies (1) to document 
and improve understanding of the processes that lead to glacier expansion 
and contraction, (2) to confirm the accuracy and reliability of precision 
temperature profiling in continuous permafrost areas as a recorder of recent 
climatic events, (3) to measure and monitor changes in the areal distribution 
of permafrost zones, (4) to assess the importance of the Arctic as a source of 
greenhouse gases that may amplify the rate of global warming, and (5) to use 
satellite remote sensing technology to periodically monitor changes in global 
glacier area (present capability) and volume (future capability).

Observing, understanding, and predicting changes in the cryosphere, glaciers, 
frozen ground (permafrost), snow cover, and floating ice (sea, lake, and river) 
are important to the U.S. Global Change Research program, because the 
cryosphere is sensitive to global climate warming.  General circulation model 
(GCM) simulations indicate that any warming will be magnified in polar 
regions, potentially causing a (1) reduction in area and volume of glaciers 
(producing a change in the Earth albedo and contributing to a rise of sea 
level); (2) reduction in the area of permafrost (releasing methane, a 
radiatively active gas 15 times more efficient than carbon dioxide); (3) 
reduction in seasonal extent of snow cover (again producing a change in 
albedo); and (4) reduction in the ice, leading to a change in albedo and 
increase in the ocean-atmosphere exchange of water vapor.  This program 
addresses goals of USGCRP concerning glacier and ice-sheet mass balance and 
polar hydrology; sea level; identification and quantification of natural sources 
and sinks of greenhouse gases, and detection of environmental change.

Accomplishments include initiating an international effort to establish areal 
extent of world's glaciers in the mid-1970's, demonstrating that methane is 
being released into the atmosphere from Arctic permafrost and gas hydrates, 
and obtaining bore hole temperature profiles indicating that surface air 
temperature on the Alaskan North Slope have increased several degrees in 
the last century.

Selected milestones: 

FY 1995:  Complete installation of a network of temperature profiling wells in 
permafrost regions of the U.S., Canada, and Russia.  Network will provide 
information on latitudinal and longitudinal variation and magnitude of 
temperature changes in the Arctic during the past century.

FY 1995:  Completion of satellite image atlas of the world's glaciers.

Data and reports are peer reviewed and results are published in USGS reports 
or scientific journals.  This program is reviewed annually by an external 
panel of specialists from universities and other government agencies, and 
their recommendations are used to make program adjustments.  

STAKEHOLDERS:  The USGS has strong cooperative ties with the 
governmental and academic glaciological community inside and outside the 
U.S.  The USGS project "Satellite Image Atlas of Glaciers of the World" 
involves cooperation with 55 scientists from 35 institutions in 25 countries.  
The permafrost and methane clathrate efforts involve collaboration with U.S. 
and non-U.S. governmental and academic communities.  This program 
contributes to understanding processes in cold regions, including sources and 
sinks of greenhouse gases, sea level fluctuations, and ecosystem response to 
changing climate.

SHORT-TERM POLICY PAYOFFS:  Establishing rate and amount of methane 
released from Arctic permafrost and gas hydrates will improve estimates of 
future atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.  Completion of the atlas 
of world's glaciers will provide a baseline for detecting any future changes in 
global ice extent.  The expanded bore hole temperature profile network will 
establish the average temperature history of the Arctic for the last 100 years, 
thus identifying any long-term trend.

PROGRAM CONTACT:	Michael D. Carr
				Global Change Research Coordinator
				U.S. Geological Survey
				104 National Center
				Reston, VA  22092
				Phone (703) 648-4450
				Fax   (703)  648-5470