Ice and Climate

Part of the Climate Change exhibition.

Essential Ice

Ice plays an important role in Earth's climate. The huge temperature difference between the frozen poles and the equator drives wind and ocean currents. The brilliant white of the ice-covered poles reflects the Sun's radiant energy. Polar ice is also an enormous reservoir of water: the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets hold enough water to raise global sea levels 64 meters (210 feet).

Although ice exists in many places on the globe, including high mountains near the equator, 99 percent of it is at the poles, in the form of ice sheets, ice shelves, permafrost, and sea ice.