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

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:

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