Ice sheets play a central role in the climate system. They store significant amounts of fresh water and are the conveyor belts for transporting snow that accumulates on land back into the oceans. The figure above shows a few of the ice-climate interactions. In the figure below (click on the figure for full resolution) we see the complete picture of the processes taking place between ice sheets, solid earth and the climate system. These interactions have an internal variability but also affect the coupled ice sheet–climate response to external forcings on time scales of months to millions of years. The inlay figure represents a typical height profile of atmospheric temperature and moisture in the troposphere.
If the current warming of the climate continues, the ice sheets will respond at a yet unknown rate, with unknown consequences for the rest of the climate system. Decisions reached at COP21 in Paris this week may impact the future of our ice sheets and halt the current trend.