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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research Special issue - May 2005   

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Title  IPY 2007-2008: a warming world focuses on the polar regions

Remote and inhospitable, the polar regions remain insufficiently studied. At a particularly sensitive time in the history of the Earth due to global climate change, the International Polar Year (IPY) of 2007-2008 will seek to remedy this situation through an intense, internationally coordinated campaign of research. The fourth of its kind, it will build on the work of past Polar and Geophysical Years in an effort to raise awareness of these regions as integral components of the Earth system.

IPY will boost programs observing the evolution of pack-ice.
IPY will boost programs observing the evolution of pack-ice.
© D. Ruche
The 2007-2008 IPY, co-sponsored by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), is endorsed by 31 nations and more than 16 scientific bodies and other organisations. It will focus on the role of the Arctic and Antarctic in the global context by coordinating international efforts in a wide range of research disciplines.

According to Professor Chris Rapley, Chair of the IPY Planning Group, this research programme will instigate rapid progress in understanding polar processes and generate new or enhanced observational systems. Through innovative education and outreach, it will also inform the general public. This will focus the attention of engineers, scientists, and leaders on the central importance of the polar regions as climate system heat coolers that respond to and drive the planet’s climate.

Working together
Artist’s view of the future German Antarctic Neumayer station
Artist’s view of the future German Antarctic Neumayer station
Because polar processes extend across, and in the case of the Antarctic, beyond national boundaries, the IPY Planning Group expects this coordinated approach to maximize cost-effective outcomes while encouraging researchers from all nations and disciplines to share information and build relationships for present and future programmes.

With the endorsement of international bodies such as the European Polar Board (EPB), the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the Committee of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes (COMNAP), the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA) and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), the 2007-2008 IPY initiative benefits from a vast expertise in international research programmes. This expertise will be coordinated through an International Programme Office located at the British Antarctic Survey headquarters in Cambridge, and administered with the support of World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) staff.

The Planning Group has selected six major themes for the 2007-2008 IPY:

  1. Status: to determine the present environmental status of the polar regions.
  2. Change: to better quantify and understand past and present natural environmental and social change in the polar regions; and to improve projections of future change.
  3. Global Linkages: to advance understanding of the links and interactions between polar regions and the rest of the globe, and the processes controlling these.
  4. New Frontiers: to investigate the frontiers of science in the polar regions.
  5. Vantage Point: to use the unique vantage point of the polar regions to develop observatories from the interior of the Earth to the Sun and the cosmos beyond.
  6. Human Dimension: to investigate the cultural, historical and social processes that shape the sustainability of circumpolar human societies, and to identify their unique contributions to global cultural diversity and citizenship.

These themes provide guidelines for applicants presenting research proposals and for the IPY Joint Committee selecting projects for endorsement. They set the agenda for the Polar Year: into reaching out to the international public; and, into instigating major advances in our knowledge and understanding of the polar regions.

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  Research milestones since 1818
  A key role for the International Polar Years
  IPY 2007-2008: a warming world focuses on the polar regions

  • International Polar Year

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