February 2 – More than 200 scientific expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic will be launched as part of International Polar Year, which begins in March. Scientists from more than 60 nations will collaborate on a range of activities during this international initiative. Their research is expected to answer important questions about climate change and the environment, as well as provide a baseline for future research.

Scientists will examine a wide range of physical, biological, and social research topics, from studying changes in permafrost to tracking marine life in the polar regions. Many education and public outreach activities are also being planned. The upcoming International Polar Year will mark the fourth in history. Other polar years took place in 1882-1883, 1932-1933, and 1957-1958 (ultimately called the International Geophysical Year).

IPY is organized under the leadership of the International Council for Science and the World Meteorological Organization, and the National Academies’ Polar Research Board serves as the U.S. National Committee for IPY. In 2004 a National Research Council committee was tasked with articulating a strategic vision for U.S. participation in the program. Their report, A Vision for the International Polar Year 2007-2008, recommended that the nation’s scientific community focus its IPY activities on assessing change and variability in the polar regions; exploring new frontiers; establishing better systems for comprehensively observing the polar regions; improving understanding of human-environment dynamics; and increasing the public understanding and importance of the polar regions. Another National Research Council report, Frontiers in Polar Biology in the Genomics Era, talks about how new technologies will expand biologists understanding of life in cold and dark conditions and recommends the development of a new multidisciplinary research initiative to facilitate genome analyses of polar organisms.

A Vision for the International Polar Year 2007-2008 (2004)

Frontiers in Polar Biology in the Genomics Era (2003) Other Resources:

International activities

U.S. activities

Polar Research Board