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IPY in a nutshell

IPY LogoInternational Polar Year (IPY) 2007–2008 is the largest coordinated international scientific effort for 50 years. From ice sheets and space science to Arctic communities and the creatures of the Southern Ocean, IPY includes more than 200 Arctic and Antarctic projects and harnesses the skills of 50,000 people — including scientists, students and support staff — from 63 nations.

International Polar Year 2007–2008

Polar science – global impact

HRH The Princess Royal speaking at the IPYUK Press Launch in London held at the Royal Society.
HRH The Princess Royal speaking at the IPYUK Press Launch in London held at the Royal Society.

The genesis of IPY is simple: three times over the past 125 years, scientists from around the world worked together in a concentrated burst of polar science and exploration. The most recent, the International Geophysical Year of 1957–1958, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2007 — a fitting time to undertake another polar year. IPY is timely for other reasons. The poles are crucial components of the Earth’s climate system, but they are also sensitive barometers of environmental change. As the Earth warms, the polar regions warm most rapidly. Polar science is crucial to understanding how our world works — as well as our impact upon it.

Although remote and inhospitable, the poles are Earth’s most powerful natural laboratories. Locked in the ice are climate records stretching back a million years, while the high, dry Antarctic plateau gives astronomers a clearer view of the universe than from anywhere else on the planet.

BAS Deputy Director Robert Culshaw in conversation with HRH the Princess Royal at the London launch.
BAS Deputy Director Robert Culshaw in conversation with HRH the Princess Royal at the London launch.

Using everything from satellites to automated underwater vehicles to gather data, scientists involved in IPY will be able to paint an extraordinary picture of the state of the Earth’s land, sea and air at the start of the 21st century. Together, they will broaden and deepen our understanding of how the world works. And by focusing on crucial issues at a critical time, they will help deliver a quantum leap forward in knowledge.

Most importantly they will leave in their wake a legacy, not only of enhanced observing networks and international partnerships, but also of a new generation of inspired and informed young scientists and citizens — a legacy that should have profound implications for the future of the planet.

IPY is sponsored by the International Council for Science and the World Meteorological Organization.