International Polar Year, or IPY (2007-2009) is by far the most exciting international scientific and educational opportunity of this century. For the next two years, all eyes will be focused on the physical, social and human dimensions of our planet's polar regions. Watch this blog for news related to Canadian outreach and education efforts related to IPY. Of particular interest to educators! Note: This blog is created independently of any official IPY organization

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Polar Oceans Days, March 17-26

Dear Colleague,

Throughout the week of March 17th - 26th, the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-8 will be celebrating its eighth polar day, this time focussing on 'Polar Oceans'. This includes physical oceanography and marine biodiversity.

These Days are designed as a way for the general public, teachers, and their classes to learn more about the Polar Regions and connect directly to polar researchers through simple, fun, and accessible activities.

We also encourage students to launch a virtual weather balloon once completing the activity: it's great fun watching balloons go up as classrooms around the world get involved.

The new “Polar Oceans” pages can be found via the Educators section of, or directly at

This includes:

- a food web activity ('What's for Lunch?') for students around the world, and summary flyers, (soon to be available in many languages - English versions attached)

- other hands-on educational activities that look at Deep Ocean Circulation, Ocean Surface currents and Ocean warming

- Local and Global Live Events: Talk to the Arctic and Antarctic!

Events are occurring around the world from March 17th - 26th. Participate in a local event near you, or join one of the 'worldwide' events via the internet. These are a great way to connect to students directly to researchers in the Polar Regions. More details can be found at

- personal profiles, photos, and contact details for a wide range of scientists involved in research related to “Polar Oceans” in both the Arctic and Antarctic

- “launch a virtual weather balloon”: a great way for everyone to participate

- “Polar Oceans” background information, resources and educational activities endorsed by the scientific community

…and much more!

Previous Polar Days explored the Polar Regions by considering Sea Ice, Ice Sheets, our Changing Earth, Polar Land and Life, People and research on 'Above the Poles'. Associated activities and information for these can also be found at:

We hope you will circulate this around your networks and Get Involved in IPY! To stay connected to IPY activities, please join the IPY Teachers googlegroup at:

Please contact us if you have any questions or ideas for this Polar Day

See you then!!!

Nicola and Rhian


Dr Rhian A Salmon

Education and Outreach Coordinator

Nicola Munro

Education Liaison

IPY International Programme Office

International Polar Year:

IPY related news from February, potpourri

CAVIAR is an international and interdisciplinary project that aims to increase understanding of how Arctic communities are affected by climate and other changes, and to contribute to the development of adaptive strategies and policies. Press Release & contact details at: ____ THORPEX-IPY suggests that extreme weather events in the Arctic will become more common as the winter ice cover retreats, with potentially severe consequences for human activity. “It is important that we get better at forecasting these weather phenomena, in order to prevent the loss of human lives and environmental disasters in the future,” said Dr. Erik Kolstad, at the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Change, who led the study. Press Release & contact details at: Our second IPY project in profile today investigates the question "Are trees invading the Arctic?" The 'expected' answer to this question is 'Yes': but is this really true? It is currently too cold for trees to exist north of the present-day treeline, so a warming climate ought to produce a northward advance of the trees. However, nature responds in a complex manner to changing climate or other environmental changes. IPY project PPS-Arctic investigates this question further with circumpolar treeline research. Arctic Treeline Research full story & contact details: Evolution and Biodiversity in the Antarctic full story & contact details: The State and Fate of Permafrost on a Warming Planet: Recent observations indicate a warming of permafrost in many northern and mountain regions with resulting degradation of ice-rich and carbon- rich permafrost. Permafrost temperature has increased by 1 to 2°C in northern Russia during the last 30 to 35 years. This observed increase is very similar to what has been observed in Alaska where the detailed characteristic of the warming varies between locations, but is typically from 0.5 to 2°C Press Release & contact details at: More details from, including a full list of projects being profiled until February 25th: __________________ International Team Confirms an Alps-like Mountain Range Exists under the East Antarctic Ice Sheet Flying twin-engine light aircraft the equivalent of several trips around the globe and establishing a network of seismic instruments across an area the size of Texas, a US-led international team of scientists has not only verified the existence of a mountain range that is suspected to have caused the massive East Antarctic Ice Sheet to form, but also has created a detailed picture of the rugged landscape buried under more than four kilometers (2.5 miles) of ice. “Working cooperatively in some of the harshest conditions imaginable, all the while working in temperatures that averaged -30 Celsius, our seven-nation team has produced detailed images of last unexplored mountain range on Earth,” said Michael Studinger, the co-leader of the U.S. portion of the Antarctica’s Gamburstev Province (AGAP) project. Press Release & contact details at: ______________________ In the Arctic, climate change is more than just a topic of conversation: it’s a fact of life. Arctic communities have already begun to feel the impacts of climate change, both large and small. Land erosion, melting permafrost, and flooding are forcing several Alaskan villages to consider relocation. In addition, the changing climate is affecting the health of residents, both directly and indirectly. Results from a workshop entitled "Emerging Threats and Responses of Arctic Communities to Climate Change", are presented here the Arctic Human Health Initiative, AHHI. Press Release & contact details at: An additional release today, "Data are the common wealth of humanity", can be found at ________________ In a mission of unprecedented scale, scientists are covering West Antarctica with a network of sensors to monitor the interactions between the ice and the earth below — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. “Our preliminary results show that we can dramatically improve our estimates of whether Antarctica is gaining or losing ice,” said Terry Wilson, leader of POLENET: The Polar Earth Observing Network— The link below also enables an immediate skype connection for interviews. Press Release & contact details at: _________________ For the first time, more than 1400 early career professionals from 40 different countries working in the coldest and most remote places on this planet are united in crossing national and disciplinary boundaries to help address the rapid changes occurring in the Polar Regions and how these changes are affecting the entire planet. “Having APECS preside over [the IPY Ceremony in Geneva] signifies not only the progress of our organization, but the confidence the senior research community has in the next generation of polar researchers to carry forward the progress made during the IPY, and to lead future research in addressing the rapid changes occurring in the harsh but fragile Polar Regions,” said Dr. Jenny Baeseman, Director of APECS, the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists. Press Release & contact details at: ____ ICECAP Completes First Field Season Researchers with the ICECAP (Investigating the Cryospheric Evolution of the Central Antarctic Plate) project are flying an upgraded World War II-era DC-3 aircraft with a suite of geophysical instruments to map the thickness of the ice sheet and measure the texture, composition, density and topography of rocks below the ice. The data will help them model East Antarctic ice stability, forecast how the ice might react to climate change, and show its potential impact on global sea level. Press Release & contact details at: _______ Circumpolar Flaw Lead System Study Celebrates with IPY in Geneva David Barber, CFLlead scientist, says: " IPY gave us this tremendous window into climate change. What we learned about climate change was more dramatic and immediate than we had anticipated. Now we must take our work to the next level and understand the very strong physical processes which are shaping the sea ice in the Arctic and to understand how these changes are affecting northern peoples, industrial development and the marine ecosystem.” Press Release & contact details at: ____ If the Arctic continues to warm as predicted, large changes in vegetation will have important consequences for the status of permafrost, depth of the thaw layer, snow patterns, hydrological cycles, wildlife and human uses of arctic landscapes. 'Greening of the Arctic' principal investigator Donald “Skip” Walker says, “If you have a map of Arctic vegetation, you have a lot of information about how the system works. Surprisingly, there are no long-term repeated measures of biomass in the Arctic. We'll be creating a baseline of vegetation data in a systematic way so that we can look at change over time.” Press Release & contact details at: _____ Polar Bears and Penguins May Live at Opposite Poles, But Census of Marine Life Explorers Find Hundreds of Identical Species Thrive in Both Arctic and Antarctic. Says Victoria Wadley: “One hundred years ago, Antarctic explorers like Scott and Rutherford saw mostly ice. In 2009, we see life everywhere.” Press Release, high resolution images, & contact details at: _____ An IPY initiative extending Antarctic helicopter support from February into April allowed scientists to find out what happens to aquatic ecosystems during the summer-winter transition. Their discoveries confirm that Antarctic ecosystems are amongst the most extraordinary on earth, and as such will always have some new way of surprising the scientists who study them. Dr. Ian Hawes says, "In the best traditions of IPY, a one-off injection of support enabled us to take a substantial step forward in understanding these important communities. " Press Release & contact details at: ____ Today's IPY project in profile is SALE-UNITED: Ever since subglacial lakes captured the imagination of scientists and the public more than a decade ago, researchers have dreamed of entering and sampling these alien environments to unlock secrets that might guide us in the search for life elsewhere in our solar system.Today, what once seemed to be only lofty scientific ambitions are now closer than ever to becoming a reality. Press Release & contact details at: ____ IASOA brings together results from climate observatories around the Arctic. Taneil Uttal, IASOA lead, says "We need better science on the Arctic atmosphere and how it interacts with the ocean and cryosphere to understand the ‘Why’ behind rising temperatures and other trends" Press Release & contact details at:


Geneva, 25 February 2009 (WHO/ICSU) – Multidisciplinary research from the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2008 provides new evidence of the widespread effects of global warming in the polar regions. Snow and ice are declining in both polar regions, affecting human livelihoods as well as local plant and animal life in the Arctic, as well as global ocean and atmospheric circulation and sea level. These are but a few findings reported in "State of Polar Research", released today by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU). In addition to lending insight into climate change, IPY has aided our understanding of pollutant transport, species’ evolution, and storm ormation, among many other areas.

The wide-ranging IPY findings result from more than 160 endorsed science projects assembled from researchers in more than 60 countries. Launched in March 2007, the IPY covers a two-year period to March 2009 to allow for observations during the alternate seasons in both polar regions. A joint project of WMO and ICSU, IPY spearheaded efforts to better monitor and understand the Arctic and Antarctic regions, with international funding support of about US$ 1.2 billion over the two- year period.

"The International Polar Year 2007 – 2008 came at a crossroads for the planet’s future" said Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of WMO. "The new evidence resulting from polar research will strengthen the scientific basis on which we build future actions."

Catherine Bréchignac, President of ICSU, adds "the planning for IPY set ambitious goals that have been achieved, and even exceeded, thanks to the tireless efforts, enthusiasm, and imagination of thousands of scientists, working with teachers, artists, and many other collaborators." IPY has provided a critical boost to polar research during a time in which the global environment is changing faster than ever in human history. It now appears clear that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass contributing to sea level rise. Warming in the Antarctic is much more widespread than it was thought prior to the IPY, and it now appears that the rate of ice loss from Greenland is increasing.

Researchers also found that in the Arctic, during the summers of 2007 and 2008, the minimum extent of year-round sea ice decreased to its lowest level since satellite records began 30 years ago. IPY expeditions recorded an unprecedented rate of sea-ice drift in the Arctic as well. Due to global warming, the types and extent of vegetation in the Arctic shifted, affecting grazing animals and hunting.

Other evidence for global warming comes from IPY research vessels that have confirmed above-global-average warming in the Southern Ocean. A freshening of the bottom water near Antarctica is consistent with increased ice melt from Antarctica and could affect ocean circulation. Global warming is thus affecting Antarctica in ways not previously identified.

IPY research has also identified large pools of carbon stored as methane in permafrost. Thawing permafrost threatens to destabilize the stored methane -a greenhouse gas- and send it into the atmosphere. Indeed, IPY researchers along the Siberian coast observed substantial emissions of methane from ocean sediments.

In the area of biodiversity, surveys of the Southern Ocean have uncovered a remarkably rich, colourful and complex range of life. Some species appear to be migrating poleward in response to global warming. Other IPY studies reveal interesting evolutionary trends such as many present-day deep-sea octopuses having originated from common ancestor species that still survive in the Southern Ocean.

IPY has also given atmospheric research new insight. Researchers have discovered that North Atlantic storms are major sources of heat and moisture for the polar regions. Understanding these mechanisms will improve forecasts of the path and intensity of storms. Studies of the ozone hole have benefited from IPY research as well, with new connections identified between the ozone concentrations above Antarctica and wind and storm conditions over the Southern Ocean. This information will improve predictions of climate and ozone depletion.

Many Arctic residents, including indigenous communities, participated in IPY’s projects. Over 30 of these projects addressed Arctic social and human science issues, including food security, pollution, and other health issues, and will bring new understanding to addressing these pressing challenges. "IPY has been the catalyst for the development and strengthening of community monitoring networks across the North" said David Carlson, Director of the IPY International Programme Office. "These networks stimulate the information flow among communities and back and forth from science to communities."

IPY leaves as its legacy enhanced observational capacity, stronger links across disciplines and communities, and an energized new generation of polar researchers. "The work begun by IPY must continue", said Mr. Jarraud. Internationally coordinated action related to the polar regions will still be needed in the next decades," he said. Ms Bréchignac concurs: "This IPY has further strengthened the ICSU-WMO relationship on polar research coordination, and we must continue to assist the scientific community in its quest to understand and predict polar change and its global manifestations at this critical time."

The increased threats posed by climate change make polar research a special priority. The "State of Polar Research" document not only describes some of the striking discoveries during IPY, it also recommends priorities for future action to ensure that society is best informed about ongoing polar change and its likely future evolution and global impacts. A major IPY science conference will take place in Oslo in June 2010.

For more information about IPY, including the "State of Polar Research" report:

For photographs of scientists at work in the Arctic region, on exhibit at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, between 16 February and 23 March 2009, please visit:


at IPY International Programme Office : Ms Rhian Salmon, IPY IPO Education and Outreach Coordinator, Tel: +44 771 118 1509, E-mail:

or Dr David Carlson, IPY IPO Director, Tel: +44 771 537 1759, E- mail:

at WMO: Ms Carine Richard-Van Maele, Chief, Communications and Public Affairs, Tel: +41 (0) 22 730 8315, E-mail: or Ms Gaëlle Sévenier, Press Officer, Tel. +41 (0) 22 730 8417, E-mail: ; Web site:

at ICSU: M. Paul Cutler, Science Officer, Tel: +33 1 45 25 53 21, E- mail:; Web site:

The State of Polar Research report in many languages.