Starting signal for International Polar Year

Aim: explore polar regions, understand climate

A field excursion group visits the demolition edge of the Comfortless Glacier. © Anne Hormes / Alfred Wegener Institute
Read out

More than 50, 000 scientists from 60 nations are in action when the official starting signal for the International Polar Year 2007/2008 will be given on 1 March 2007. The researchers will investigate the importance of the Arctic and Antarctic for the climate and the Earth's ecosystems in numerous projects in ice and snow.

"The fact that one of the largest internationally coordinated research campaigns in the polar regions is taking place right now is a unique opportunity. Only by understanding the global climate can we make good predictions and prepare appropriately for possible changes, "says Professor Reinhard Dietrich, Chairman of the German Commission for the International Polar Year.

The International Polar Year opens in Germany with an event on 1 March 2007 in Berlin. Numerous scientists will talk about their projects and give an impression of the diversity of research projects in the polar year. A live circuit to the German-French Arctic research station as well as a presentation of the new Antarctic research station Neumayer Station III are also part of the program.

But not only in Germany, but also in Japan and Australia, China, or Brazil, there will be opening events on March 1st to celebrate the start of the International Polar Year.

Climate is changing dramatically

Understanding the Earth and Climate system is one of the biggest human challenges. The polar regions play a key role in this. Here, climate change, with its ecological and economic consequences, is already particularly evident. The melting of the ice masses of the Arctic causes the people and animals living there to give up their habitual way of life. Polar bears find less ice floes, the reindeer herds of nomadic people sink into the mud. However, new sea routes are opened, which were previously blocked by sea ice. display

Logo for the International Polar Year. International Polar Year

The International Polar Year 2007/08 coincides with a time when the debate on climate change is firmly anchored in the media and in the minds of the population. The recently published IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) shows once again that human beings are dramatically changing the climate.

Polar Regions as Climate Indicators

The aim of the International Polar Year is to investigate the role of the Arctic and Antarctic for the climate and ecosystems of the Earth. The continental ice melts, the sea level rises and large coastal areas become uninhabitable. As the permafrost areas thaw, huge amounts of the greenhouse gas methane are released. cosystems are changing, plants, animals and even humans have to adapt or be displaced.

However, humans can only react to environmental changes if scientists know the connections and make good predictions, according to the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. This requires data reflecting the current and past climate. This requires a large number of expeditions. In eternal ice, the climate history of hundreds of thousands of years is stored. From tiny inclusions in the ice and from the sediments of the seafloor, the scientists can reconstruct the climate of the past.

The largest international research campaign of the last 50 years

Despite their great importance, the polar regions are still largely unexplored. This is partly due to the high logistical effort necessary to live and work in the hostile areas of the Arctic and Antarctic. On the other hand, there are sometimes different priorities between individual states, which can make cooperation more difficult.

The polar year 2007/08 now offers a unique opportunity to bundle the knowledge, the skills and the logistical possibilities of institutes and universities from more than 60 countries, in order to create one scientific breakthrough in polar and climate research. For example, the data will be accessible and accessible to all.

For the first time the public and especially the schools are involved in the research campaigns to a large extent. This not only aims to raise awareness of how important the polar regions are for our climate, but also to inspire a new generation of scientists in research.

At the opening event in Berlin some activities for schools will be presented and the winners of the painting competition will be presented. How do children imagine the polar regions of the world? honored. Many of the submitted pictures will be on display.

From discovery trips to international research campaigns

125 years ago, internationally coordinated polar research began with the first International Polar Year 1882/83, an initiative of Hessian Carl Weyprecht. The fact that several nation states joined forces to carry out a joint research project was a sensation at the time. Previously, the dangerous expeditions served above all the fame and the political and economic interests of individual countries: New areas should be claimed and sea routes discovered. Now, however, the need for international and interdisciplinary cooperation was recognized.

The first International Polar Year was followed by the Second International Polar Year (1932/33) and the International Geophysical Year (1957/58). These great scientific events, with a large number of expeditions, the establishment of new research stations and internationally coordinated observation programs, brought decisive advances in knowledge about the polar regions. The International Polar Year 2007/08 wants to build on this tradition. It is supported by the International Council of Science (ICSU) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

(Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association, 27.02.2007 - DLO)