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International Polar Year
IPY 2007-2008
 
 
Updated on 19/1/05
 
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What is IPY

The Polar Regions are remote areas of the Earth that have profound significance for the Earth's climate and ultimately environments, ecosystems and human society. However we still remain remarkably ignorant of many aspects of how polar climate operates and its interaction with polar environments, ecosystems and societies. To have any hope of understanding the current global climate and what might happen in future the science community needs a better picture of conditions at the poles and how they interact with and influence the oceans, atmosphere and land masses. Existing climate models do not work well in the polar regions and have for example failed to predict the dramatic break-up of Antarctic ice shelves observed in recent years. The three fastest warming regions on the planet in the last two decades have been Alaska, Siberia and parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, Thus the Polar Regions are highly sensitive to climate change and this raises real concern for the future of polar ecosystems and Arctic society.

There have been a number of major international science initiatives in Polar Regions since the first International Polar Year in 1882-83 and all have had a major influence in overhauling our understanding of global processes in these important areas. These initiatives have involved an intense period of interdisciplinary research, collecting a broad range of measurements that provide a snapshot in time of the state of the polar regions. The last such initiative was the International Geophysical Year in 1957-58, involving 80,000 scientists from 67 countries.

It produced unprecedented exploration and discoveries in many fields of research and fundamentally changed how science was conducted in the polar regions. Fifty years on, technological developments such as earth observation satellites, autonomous vehicles and molecular biology techniques offer enormous opportunities for a further quantum step upwards in our understanding of polar systems. An IPY in 2007-2008 also affords an opportunity to engage the upcoming generation of young Earth System scientists and to get the public to realize just how much the cold ends of the sphere we all live on really do influence us. To ensure that researchers get the opportunity to work in both polar regions or work summer and winter if they wish, the Polar Year will actually run from March 2007-March 2009.

 


 
   
   
 
Strengthening international science for the benefit of society