DATABASE: Taking the Polar Pulse

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Science  27 Jan 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5760, pp. 445
DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5760.445d

Canada harbors the second largest store of permanent ice in the Northern Hemisphere, and half of the country's land remains frozen year-round. All that frosty water influences weather patterns and ocean circulation and provides a sensitive indicator of climate change. Check out current ice status and follow historical trends at the State of the Canadian Cryosphere, hosted by the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

The cryosphere refers to ice and snow accumulations and includes glaciers, polar ice caps, and permafrost. A slew of maps and other graphics on the site provides snapshots of cryospheric conditions. You can get the latest measurements of Canada's snow cover and find out which lakes are frozen over. Animations track recent changes in the sea ice around the North Pole. To put the information in context, the site summarizes past variability and offers projections. The area covered by sea ice, for instance, has hit a record low due to rising temperatures, and models predict further shrinking.

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